The 6 biggest 49ers NFL Draft steals of the last decade

The NFL Draft's fire and pizzazz is usually reserved for prime time, but history shows successful teams are often built in the middle and late rounds.

Let's take a look at the best draft steals the 49ers have had there in the last decade.

Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy (QB12) goes through a drill
Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy (QB12) goes through a drill / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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TE George Kittle, Round 5 (2017)

For our first pick, we go right back to the first draft of the Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch regime, and the then-Iowa tight end who became the standard bearer for the term "49ers fifth-round steal'.

It seems fair to say that most saw George Kittle as a role player at best. His scouting report compares him to Charles Clay, and mostly seems to see him as a No. 2 tight end with fairly little upside.

This isn't the player the Niners got.

Seven years later, after taking over the starting job halfway through his rookie season, Kittle has notched 90 regular-season starts, compiling over 450 catches and 6,000 yards to go with 37 touchdowns. He netted a huge second contract and has been a regular target of any and all 49ers quarterbacks, from C.J. Beathard to Brock Purdy, and, despite suffering occasionally with injury troubles, never lets the team down.

2023 felt like a welcome return to form, statistically, after a couple of middling seasons, but his grit 'n grind, never-say-die attitude, particularly in the run blocking game -- ironically one of the most criticised parts of his game in the above scouting report -- really exemplifies the "Brick by Brick" 49ers regime, and he's not only a fan favourite, but a mainstay of this team.

Given the 49ers' troubles finding a partner for him (including ill-fated free agency signings like Jordan Reed and last year's high drafting of Cameron Latu last year), this steal looks even more pronounced as the years pass.