San Francisco 49ers: 10 biggest ‘what ifs?’ in NFL Draft history

Quarterback Alex Smith (Utah) drafted first overall by the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Quarterback Alex Smith (Utah) drafted first overall by the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images) /
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Jim Druckenmiller, 49ers
Jim Druckenmiller #14 of the San Francisco 49ers Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw /Allsport /

No. 8: What if 49ers didn’t draft Jim Druckenmiller?

On nearly every list of biggest 49ers NFL Draft busts out there, you’re bound to find quarterback Jim Druckenmiller, the Niners’ first-round selection (No. 26 overall) from the 1997 draft.

True, the Niners were flirting with the idea of eventually replacing the Hall of Famer, Steve Young, and Druckenmiller was pegged to be the guy out of Virginia Tech. Then-head coach Steve Mariucci liked him. But one of San Francisco’s assistants within the front office, Bill Walsh (you might have heard of him), did not. At least according to a transcript from ESPN.

Walsh apparently wanted quarterback Jake Plummer, who was selected by the Arizona Cardinals at No. 42 overall and would eventually go on to have a successful career with the Denver Broncos.

Druckenmiller, meanwhile, played in six games, tossed one touchdown against four interceptions and owns a career 29.2 passer rating before flaming out after two years.

A giant NFL Draft miss.

It’s partially fun to think about the “what could have been” if Walsh, who wasn’t calling the draft shots in 1997, got his way. David Fucillo of Niners Nation asked the same question, having written:

"It’s all hypotheticals, and we don’t know what kind of butterfly effect this has on everything else. And yet, it remains one of my favorite what-ifs. Plummer had the ideal combination of arm and mobility the 49ers could have used to replace Young. Who knows how it actually would have played out, but it’s not hard to be optimistic about what might have been."

At least the Niners were able to transition from Young to quarterback Jeff Garcia, and that switch went about as well as it possibly could have.

For the infamous, though, at least Druckenmiller stands on that list awfully high up.