In the last 20 years, the 49ers have had 26 draft picks in the first round. 6 times they have picked twice in the first round and one time (1996) they had no picks in the first round. There have been some nondescript players like Julian Peterson, and R.W. McQuarters, who were average in 49er colors but went on to above average success in other uniforms, and then there were some god awful picks, and a few that seem to have worked out rather well. So in spirit of the 2012 Draft opening up last night, here is my list of the top 5 best and worst 1st round picks by your favorite team in the last 20 years.
Worst (in chronological order)
1: Todd Kelly – DE – Tennessee, 27th overall in the 1993 Draft. This guy was awful, he played 25 games and recorded zero tackles and 4.5 sacks. Now he is probably flipping burgers at Jack in a Box. Notable players drafted after Todd Kelly: Michael Strahan and John Lynch.
2: Jim Druckenmiller – QB – Virginia Tech, 26th overall in the 1997 Draft. What can be said about Jim Druckenmiller, that hasn’t already been sent to him in the form of hate mail from Niners fans? 4 games played, millions of dollars wasted, and one brilliant XFL season later, Jim Druckenmiller is quite possibly one of the worst picks ever in draft history. Notable players drafted after Jim Druckenmiller: Tiki Barber, Corey Dillon, and Darren Sharper.
3: Reggie McGrew – DT – University of Florida, 24th overall in the 1999 Draft. I know what you are saying, Reggie who? This guy played 22 games for the 49ers from 1999-2001 and in that time recorded 7 tackles and one sack. Seriously, 7 tackles and ONE sack. Yikes. Notable players drafted after Reggie McGrew: Dre Bly and Joey Porter.
4: Rashaun Woods – WR – Oklahoma St. 31st overall in the 2004 Draft. In his rookie campaign he had 7 catches for 160 yards and 1 TD before tearing some ligaments in his hand and getting the boot. Sad story, sadder pick. Notable Players drafted after Rashaun Woods: Karlos Dansby, Chris Snee, and Bob Sanders.
5: Kentwan Balmer – DT – North Carolina, 29th overall in the 2008 Draft. Starting in 27 games for the 49ers, Kentwan recorded 11 tackles and zero sacks, absolutely horrific numbers for a guy that many thought was a steal at 29. Turns out those people were wrong. Notable players drafted after Kentwan Balmer: Desean Jackson and Ray Rice.
Best (in chronological order)
1: Bryant Young – DT – drafted 7th overall in the 1994 Draft. What can I say about Bryant Young? Hands down one of the best defensive lineman ever to wear a 49er uniform. Quite possible one of the best 49ers ever. Four times Bryant was selected to the Pro Bowl and four times he was an All Pro. He was also selected to the All Decade team for the 1990′s and helped the 49ers win Super Bowl XXIX.
2: Vernon Davis – TE – drafted 6th overall in the 2006 Draft. Vernon is the man, plain and simple. Easily a top 5 TE in the NFl right now and only getting better. Being a part of “The Catch III” in the Divisional Playoff game against the Saints last year has only added to his lore. This could easily go down as one of the best picks in 49er history.
3: Patrick Willis – LB – drafted 11th overall in the 2007 draft. Rookie of the year, beast mode 24/7, and easily the best Linebacker in 49er history. Patrick Willis’ #52 will be retired but not for a long time. He will continue to get better and help bring this team a championship soon.
4: Joe Staley – OT – drafted 28th overall in the 2007 draft. 2007 was a good draft for the 49ers. Joe Staley has quickly become one of the best tackles in the NFL, making the Pro Bowl last year as a starter. He doesn’t give up sacks and doesn’t get penalties called against him. He is a true talent at the tackle position and will be here until 2017 thanks to his new contract.
5: Aldon Smith – LB – drafted 7th overall in the 2011 draft. This could easily become the steal of the 2011 draft. Aldon Smith is a beast plain and simple. He didn’t even start every game in his rookie year and yet he still won rookie of the year. He holds the 49er rookie sack record at 14 and will only get better. P. Willis and A. Smith in the same linebacker corps? Look out.
So there you have it. The top 5 and the worst 5 first round picks in the last 20 years by the San Francisco 49ers. I hope that this trip down memory lane has been as fun for you to read as it was for me to research and write. Feel free to comment and mention any body I may have missed on either side in your opinion.
Thanks for reading and Go Niners!