I am a huge supporter of the 49ers first and second round picks. The steal of the draft and the guy who may be the top contributor among the rookies this season didn’t come until the fourth round. With the selection of running back Kendall Hunter out of Oklahoma State the 49ers got a player ready to contribute immediately. Hunter put up staggering stats at OK State (1548 yards/5.7 per carry with 16 rushing TDs) and even more amazing is the fact that 2010 was Hunter’s 2nd 1500+ yard season of his career in the Big 12 at that. In other years no way a player like Hunter lasts until the fourth round. Too many teams were reaching for need positions early in the draft (Christian Ponder at #12?) certainly contributed to several players sliding in the draft (see Prince Amukamara). The RB position took the biggest hit being almost ignored early in the draft with only one taken in the first round (New Orleans-Mark Ingram).
Hunter’s selection finally gives the team real options behind Frank Gore and seemingly signals the end of the 49ers one-man backfield show. If used effectively a Gore/Hunter combination could potentially be a lethal 1-2 punch. Using Gore as it’s between the tackles power runner and Hunter as the “scat” back. Hunter is not just seen as a Reggie Bush type of back however, he is seen as a potential every down back. Gore you are officially on notice.
You will not hear me gush about the 49ers third round selection of South Carolina’s cornerback/safety Chris Culliver. I don’t have a problem with Culliver as a player there’s a lot to like; he runs a 4.36/40, ranks third in SEC history in kickoff return yards (2,476) and will have immediate special teams value. I have a couple problems the 49ers drafted him as a corner when he played safety in college a transition rarely made. Second this guy was a flat out reach with poor value and could have been had in fourth or fifth round easily. If the 49ers wanted him they should have selected him later in the draft and used the third round pick on a nose tackle.
The book on Culliver sounds a lot like Nate Clements who didn’t live up to the billing of a big time CB after the 49ers signed him to a lucrative free agent contract. According to Sports Illustrated Culliver,
“Struggled at cornerback last season, reacting slowly to receivers’ moves off the line and struggling to stay downfield with them. Does not always play to his timed speed. Not a strong or sturdy defensive back. Struggles getting off blocks to make plays. Coming off an injury.”
Grading the middle rounds of the draft is tough. On the one hand you have an absolute steal in round four, the other a head scratching, position changing pick in round three. Still both these players will contribute immediately with Culliver at least expected to provide special team help.
Grade for Third and Fourth Rounds: B-