Well the draft is over, and the speculation has begun as it always does. Literally hundreds of talking heads spend countless hours pontificating about who will be a superstar in this league and who will be a bust. Truth is, none of them know what the heck they are talking about. Let me be clear though, neither do I. No one does. All we can do is speculate and dream about the success that the players drafted will have. With the countless amounts of draft grades and draft recaps and the like, I am not going to dilute the water any more by adding yet another draft analysis to this site. I will however tell you that the 49ers organization has done an outstanding job in this years draft. So many people fail to take the time to understand the strategy behind some of the moves that get made before, during, and after the draft that make or break a team’s success. Most casual fans will watch the first round of the draft and be excited to see who their team picks. More hardcore fans however, respect the nuances of the draft, the subtle movements (either up or down) by their team in the draft.
The draft has become so much more than just a selection of college players. It has become an enterprise in itself, allowing teams to not only address needs and fill holes but to plan for future years and make moves to win championships. Teams that manipulate the draft well are teams that are successful during the regular season and postseason in the NFL. It used to be that it was a select few teams that drafted incredibly well. The first name that comes to mind is Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. For years, The Hoodie and his staff manipulated the draft in so many ways it seemed illegal what they were doing, accumulating picks and moving up and down in the draft with fervor. Soon though, more teams started to take notice of this and the success that Coach Belichick had with his many draft picks and how he manipulated the draft.
Now you can the San Francisco 49ers coaching staff and owners to that group. This years draft for the 49ers was one of the best in recent memory, but if you look back, this is more of a reoccurring trend in the last six or seven years than a mirage. Since 2004 the 49ers have been drafting quite well (with the one exception of 2008). Since the 2004 draft, the 49ers have had 70 draft picks, and only two years (2008 & 2009) did they have seven or less. Of those 70 draft picks, 27 (give or take) are still on the team and 6 have been to the Pro Bowl. This is a team that has taken a blueprint for success that has worked in the past, and implemented it very well. Not counting this years draft, that gives the 49ers an average of 10 picks per draft, three more than you start with. Adding three extra picks every year is a very good way to improve your team as most would agree. The difference here is that anyone can throw darts at names and pick college players, but it takes elite football minds to analyze players performances in college, the combine, pro days, and individual workouts. This is something the York family, Trent Baalke, and now Jim Harbaugh have done very well.
More important than all the numbers, the 40 yard dash times, the bench press reps and all the other tangible measurements teams use to grade players is (cliche coming) the intangibles. The “football IQ” if you will. It takes a certain type of coach, or GM, or owner, or scout to recognize the potential in a player and the 49ers do this better than any team in the NFL. The trick is that the 49ers aren’t just looking for good players, those are a dime a dozen. The 49ers are looking for a certain type of player, they are looking for good men. It is a rare commodity to see a professional sports team with character and one that only employs players with the highest grades on a chart that measures integrity, character, morality, dedication, loyalty, and the biggest intangible of all, heart. The 49ers are that team. They are a team of integrity and the reason for that is because of Jim Harbaugh. Coach Harbaugh has created not only a culture of winning but a culture of excelling through superior personnel both on and off the field.
In short, the 49ers have begun the climb back to prominence which is something all 49er fans have waited patiently for over the last 15+ years and more importantly have done it in a way that makes Niner Nation proud. Our team has become the standard by which all teams should wish to be measured. Sure they haven’t won a Super Bowl since the 1994-95 season but they will, and when they do, they will do it with a team full of men, men that can hold their heads high because they are on a team full of integrity, passion, and character. In a world full of money grubbing, two-faced, selfish, drug addicted players and shady, vindictive, morality deprived coaches and owners the 49ers organization is a breath of fresh air.