Nov 20, 2013; Toledo, OH, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies safety Jimmie Ward (15) warms up before the game against the Toledo Rockets at Glass Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers' 2014 NFL Draft Class is Overrated


I’m not one to often criticize a draft class, and I’m going to find the positive in every pick every team makes, because I want to see the pick as best I can in the way that they see it. But one thing that is growing tiring is listening to the media hype up this San Francisco 49ers-Seattle Seahawks rivalry and continue to gush all over Jim Harbaugh, Trent Baalke, and the 49ers’ organization which has drafted pretty well, but this year missed the boat for me.

I think the 49ers have the most overrated draft class in the league, and that’s not to say I think it was a bad group of players.

I actually like all the players the 49ers picked, and I don’t have a problem with the rounds they were picked in either. But you have to look at a couple of things here.

Number one, did San Francisco adequately address their top needs? Did San Francisco use their plethora of picks wisely? Did they load up in areas that could soon become weakness?

I think the 49ers swung and missed on this draft in those regards, and you’re free to disagree with that, but here’s my line of thinking.

The Niners used their first round pick on a versatile, aggressive safety in Jimmie Ward out of Northern Illinois, and they had obviously identified him as a player they liked prior to the draft process a lot because they certainly had ammunition to trade up and do whatever they wanted in the early stages of this draft. Let’s look at a quick recap:

1. Jimmie Ward, DB, Northern Illinois
2. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
3. Marcus Martin, C, USC
4. Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
5. Brandon Thomas, OL, Clemson
6. Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
7. Dontae Johnson, DB, North Carolina State
8. Aaron Lynch, DL/LB, South Florida
9. Keith Reaser, CB, Florida Atlantic
10. Kenneth Acker, CB, SMU
11. Kaleb Ramsey, DL, Boston College
12. Trey Millard, FB, Oklahoma

This is a draft class you would expect to see from a team that just won maybe four or five games. The 49ers have done an incredible job, probably better than any team in the league the last few years, of stock-piling draft picks and building for the future to make a huge move whenever they please, or to stock up whenever they need.

The unfortunate thing is, the Niners have been doing this for a while, so they already have a phenomenal roster, one that some would call the best and possibly deepest in the NFL. So you look at all these picks and I first just scratch my head because what are the Niners thinking here? Are they really going to keep all 12 of these guys?

What about the players from previous drafts that have been stashed away, like Marcus Lattimore and LaMichael James? Are those guys on the chopping block after being last year’s ‘great value pick’?

This is the route the 49ers have chosen, so you look at the players they got and you’re thinking, ‘Wow, that’s a heck of a class right there.’ But the problem is, the 49ers didn’t need a 12 player class. They needed an impact player at cornerback, which they may or may not get in nickel situations from Jimmie Ward. In my opinion, they needed to upgrade their defensive line at nose tackle for sure and at DE opposite Justin Smith, who could also use a talented successor at his age.

The Niners used picks this year similar to the way they have in the past — they stock-piled guys who may or may not make the roster and got a couple of intriguing injured players that won’t take up a roster slot this season because they are recovering, and that is a luxury they could afford.

However, stashing rookies on IR isn’t going to win you a championship. Is Jimmie Ward the missing piece to a Super Bowl run? How many carries will Carlos Hyde see down the stretch this season?

What are the Niners doing spending even a late-round draft pick on Blaine Gabbert?

After losing Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson the past two years, the 49ers have done a good job of using their top two picks in those respective years on replacements, that I’ll grant. I also like this roster as a whole and am NOT saying by any means are they not a Super Bowl contender this year.

But if any team could have jumped up into the top area of the draft and made a significant move to get a high-impact player, it should have been San Francisco.

Instead, they chose to fill out their roster with practice players and guys to stash in IR — AGAIN.

I love what Carlos Hyde brings to the table as a future featured back, but he’s going to be fighting for carries behind 49ers legend Frank Gore and incumbent Kendall Hunter.

Bruce Ellington has great potential as a slot and return man, and I thought he was the best slot prospect in the draft going in, but unless there’s an injury, he’s scarce going to see the field offensively playing behind Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Jon Baldwin, Stevie Johnson, and maybe even Quinton Patton.

I question a lot of these picks because it seems like a good portion of them won’t even make the roster. The Niners have one of the best teams in the league but I think in this year’s draft, they failed to add someone who can make a huge difference in year one as they pursue a Super Bowl THIS season, in Colin Kaepernick’s contract year.

And by the way, they don’t have a backup QB anymore that can yield a 2nd round pick in a trade. The Niners have placed their eggs in Kaepernick’s basket, not using a draft pick on the position among their 12 picks.

I just thought it was an approach to the draft I would not have taken if I was San Francisco, but we’ll see how it all plays out on the field.

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Tags: 2014 Nfl Draft San Francisco 49ers

  • Jason

    Your article has depth and weight. I agree somewhat. You did fail to mention that with all those picks atleast a third of them could go on to be good or even great players.

    • Travis Crouch

      There pass rush replacement is there guys they got last year’s (irs) draft that’s was a 5th round but graded a second round in tank

    • SayreBedinger

      I certainly felt like I addressed the fact that I love the players they picked, for the most part. Good players, but at what cost? The depth of previous drafts?

      • JAYSAWN49

        I agree. They did a little too much stock piling. We still don’t know what we got in players like LaMichael James. I totally agree with you. However it looked like they took the best available player no matter what. Either way great article. We will find out in a few years how this draft turned out. No one has a crystal ball.

  • loverpoint

    The only 2 players taken that might start are Jimmie Ward and Marcus Martin.

    Because of Baalkes incompetence in drafting WR’s he now resorts to trading for them and thus is able to avoid them in the draft. THe same could be said for CB’s and TE’s.

    With 12 draft picks Baalke came away with a lot of mediocrity, plus a class of 2013 that is mostly unproven.

  • TheMaz

    There is one part of the equation that wasn’t mention in this article – if you move up and draft an impact player in the early first round, you have to pay him significantly more. The 49ers are looking at several impact player already on the roster that will need new contracts that have to be paid for. The difference between what Kapernick is making now and what he will make on a new contract is huge!

    • SayreBedinger

      Thanks for bringing up that point but with the new rookie wage scale it’s not that much more expensive and having more picks at less money isn’t much different than having less picks for more money. Most teams block out their draft budget ahead of time

  • Rick Talley

    Sayre, I couldn’t agree more with your assessment! They would have been much better off packaging some of these picks to move up. If they weren’t deep already, it would be one thing, but they are. A TOTALLY WASTED DRAFT!

    • SayreBedinger

      Thanks Rick! I would say again I love the players, hate the strategy. They got good players but at what expense?

  • harry carlin

    I so agree. We needed a shutdown cornerback badly. And depth on defensive line.
    We did not not need 12 guys. SF is not a rebuilding team needing. Made no sense. Should have just gotten a few impact players

    • SayreBedinger

      Exactly.

  • Fog City

    If you look a little deeper there is some logic to it:
    - Mike Evans (7th pick) and Justin Gilbert (8th pick) I’m assuming are the high-impact players who a lot would have liked them to target. Consider this: it took Buffalo an extra 1st and 4th rounder in 2015 to move up 5 spots from Pick 9 to Pick 4. It would’ve taken a lot more than that to get the 49ers up from Pick 31 to Pick 7 or 8 (also consider the 49ers will be drafting in late rounds for the next couple of years so their future picks are not as valuable as Buffalo’s). I’m thinking the 49ers didn’t like the risk of doing a “Ricky Williams”-esque trade with a bundle of their picks this year to move up to the front of the 1st Round and I don’t blame them for that.
    - 49ers should get their starting NT Ian Williams back for training camp. Dorsey proved more than capable in his place. However NT is not a huge area of need anyway considering the 49ers play the majority of their snaps on D w/ an extra DB in for their NT. Because of this, if Jimmie Ward beats out Cox & Wright and co. he will see a lot of snaps this year as the nickel back.
    - 49ers drafted their heir apparent for J. Smith last year in Tank Carradine.
    - As much as most want to see Lattimore succeed, he’s coming off two major injuries the last of which was devastating. Hyde is a really good insurance pick. With the mileage on Gore, this is an area of concern more so sooner rather than later. Hunter is most likely gone after this season. LMJ is a bust and on the trading block as it looks like he will never be given a chance to be used properly in this system.
    - Marcus Martin was arguably the best C in the draft and will challenge Kilgore for the starting spot.
    - Brandon Thomas is insurance in the likely event that Iupati walks next year.
    - Borland was drafted to help push Wilhoite & Moody in Bowman’s absence.
    - Ellington has good potential as a slot receiver and return man – good value for where he was picked.
    - Aaron Lynch seems like a high risk, high reward type of player – acceptable at this point in the draft.

    The 49ers’ draft was conducted well and not only with a run at the 2014 Super Bowl in mind, but future ones, as well.