The San Francisco 49ers experienced some up-and-down NFL Draft classes the last decade, yet there are only a few players who stand out as the worst pick in that time frame.
With the 2020 NFL Draft coming up later this month, the San Francisco 49ers are looking to capitalize on two first-round picks in order to bolster what’s already viewed as a Super Bowl-caliber roster.
For the most part, general manager John Lynch has had about the average success rate one would hope from a front office. There have been some notable misses, yes. But Lynch is also responsible for finding gems like tight end George Kittle, nose tackle D.J. Jones and linebacker Dre Greenlaw.
There were no-brainer pickups, too, such as the team’s top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, EDGE Nick Bosa.
Going back further, though, the Niners have had some massively disappointing draft picks. Combined with some busts from the Lynch era, one has to wonder a bit who the team’s worst draft pick of the decade is?
While fans will have their own opinions, Niner Noise establishes the case for these three worst San Francisco draft picks between 2010 and 2019.
Defensive End Solomon Thomas — No. 3 Overall, 2017 NFL Draft
Lynch’s first pick as an executive, former Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas, was supposed to be one of the 2017 draft’s safest picks. He was projected to be a good run stopper with some well-above-average interior pass-rushing abilities.
Yet the Niners played Thomas on the edge for his first season, which led to an underwhelming rookie campaign. Things weren’t much better in 2018 and 2019, either, and Thomas has since been relegated to a mere backup.
Over his three-year career, Thomas has just six sacks and even made it to an honorable mention within Bleacher Report’s list of draft busts from the past five years.
Thomas is still making an impact, though, which could keep him from being viewed the worst 49ers pick of the last decade overall.
But top-five selections are expected to be cornerstone pieces. Thomas is anything but.
Linebacker Reuben Foster — No. 31 Overall, 2017 NFL Draft
At the time, the Niners getting back into Round 1 of the 2017 draft to grab former Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster looked to be the steal of steals.
Without his red flags and injury history, Foster was easily viewed as a top-10 talent. Once he got on the field his rookie season, that looked to be the case. Lynch took a gamble, and it was paying off early in 2017.
That was before the off-field transgressions, though, which multiplied after his rookie season and led to numerous arrests.
Following another arrest in November of 2018, Foster found himself off the team for good.
Thirty other teams passed on Foster, yet the 49ers were willing to take the chance. They got burned in the process, and Foster’s unceremonious departure from the Niners puts him on this list.
Wide Receiver A.J. Jenkins — No. 30 Overall, 2012 NFL Draft
Most 49ers fans would probably agree the 2012 selection of former Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins at the tail end of Round 1 in that year’s NFL Draft should stand alone as the Niners’ worst draft pick of the decade.
It would be hard to argue with the assessment, particularly considering then-general manager Trent Baalke’s top selection wasn’t even in the top 50 of most draft analyst’s big boards that year.
Jenkins was inactive for all but three games his rookie season, being targeted just once in 2012 — a pass he dropped.
San Francisco subsequently traded Jenkins away to the Kansas City Chiefs the following offseason.
Perhaps the only thing keeping Jenkins from being the hands-down worst 49ers draft pick of the last decade is the fact he was taken very late in Round 1. If this was a top-20 or top-10 pick, and the results ended up being what they were, there would be zero doubt.
Still, Jenkins’ contributions to the league were almost null, and fans haven’t forgotten about it ever since.