With the NFL draft at the end of the month the 49ers are hoping to use their seventh pick in the draft and their 11 other picks to upgrade many holes on offense and defense. Anytime a team selects in the first-round expectations for the draft pick are high. What might seem like a hit draft pick could easily become a miss and vice versa. The more experienced front offices in the NFL usually get their first-round draft picks right as well as finding the hidden gems in the later rounds. The 49ers front office has improved the last two drafts by selecting players to fill holes that were needed rather than going with the best available player no matter the position. Last year the 49ers took two offensive linemen who both started as rookies and although the jury is still out on Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis the future looks bright at guard and tackle. In 2009 the 49ers were lucky enough to have Michael Crabtree fall to them at the tenth pick and he seems destined to becoming one of the top receivers in the NFL if the 49ers can find a quarterback to throw to him.
Before the 2009 draft the 49ers have had hits in Patrick Willis, Joe Staley and Vernon Davis however there has been misses. Here is a list of my five worst first-round draft picks by the 49ers since 2000:
5.) Ahmed Plummer, CB Ohio State University (Pick 24)
In the 2000 NFL draft the 49ers had two picks in the first-round at the 16 and 24 slots. The 49ers selected linebacker Julian Peterson at 16 who played well for the Niners until 2005 when he signed with the Seahawks. At the 24th pick the 49ers went with Ahmed Plummer. Plummer only played six seasons in the NFL, all with the 49ers, and missed 23 of the last 32 games from 2004-2005 due to injuries. Plummer had his best season in 2001 with 58 tackles and seven interceptions. In his first three years in the NFL Plummer was considered one of the best coverage defenders but shortly after he signed a five-year, $25 million contract extension in 2004 his injuries became a problem and he never fully recovered.
4.) Kwame Harris, OT Stanford University (Pick 26)
With their only first-round pick in the 2003 draft the 49ers selected Kwame Harris with the 26th pick. Harris started 44 games out of 72 while with the 49ers. Harris was known more for his offside penalties than his pass and run blocking. Harris signed with the Raiders in 2008 and in only one season with the team he started 11 games. You know it’s bad when Al Davis doesn’t want you on the team. Harris spent the 2009 season out of the NFL and was on the practice squad of the UFL’s Florida Tuskers in 2010. Harris has since retired from professional football.
3.) Kentwan Balmer, DT University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Pick 29)
Kentwan Balmer going AWOL at the start of last season’s training camp was the beginning of the end for Mike Singletary and it showed early on how the players had lost faith in Singletary. Nevertheless going AWOL because you have an issue with your coach or as was stated by the team Balmer was missing time due to personal reasons, will get you in the bust column. Balmer was considered to be a great defensive lineman coming out of college in 2008 but he did not start one game for the 49ers in two seasons and only had 19 tackles and zero sacks while appearing 27 games with the 49ers.
2.) Rashaun Woods, WR Oklahoma State University–Stillwater (Pick 31)
Rashaun Woods would have made it to the number one spot if not for a certain quarterback. Selected with the 31st pick in 2004 Woods was supposed to replace Terrell Owens who left for the Eagles. Woods even wore Owens’ number 81 but was a huge flop. In two seasons with the 49ers Woods had seven receptions for 160 receiving yards with one touchdown. Woods only appeared in 14 games in 2004 and missed all of 2005 with torn ligaments in his thumb. The 49ers traded Woods to the Chargers in 2006 and he was released by the Chargers a few months later. Woods has not played professional football since 2007 when he was with the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL and was released in 2008. Woods could go down as one of the biggest wide receiver busts selected in the first-round but with how late he was picked, at 31, could save him from being at the top of the list.
1.) Alex Smith, QB University of Utah (Pick 1)
Are you surprised to see Alex Smith as the worst first-round draft pick by the 49ers since 2000? If you are then you have more faith in Smith than the rest of us. I can see why you might hold onto Smith and him having success with the 49ers, Jim Harbaugh. But it is too late for Smith to be saved and not even a coach like Harbaugh who is great at coaching quarterbacks can save him. The biggest factor with Smith is he has no confidence in his abilities at quarterback thanks to the two Mike’s who shattered it every time they could. There is a reason why NFL front offices try staying away from college quarterbacks who played in a spread offense, especially with the first overall pick. It takes two to three years to get a spread offense quarterback to play at a successful level in the NFL and if you don’t have the right coaches it takes even longer. Smith was thrown out to the wolves in his rookie season with an offense that had no line or offensive threats. He has not recovered since. The bad thing is the 49ers will most likely bring Smith back because the options at quarterback are so dismal.