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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DT D.J. Jones, Round 6 (2017)

In that same draft, in fact in the very next round, came defensive tackle D.J. Jones, who forced his way into the defensive line rotation towards the end of his rookie campaign and never looked back.

Jones is exactly the type of player you'd want to find at this point in the draft: solid, dependable, and durable who immediately adds value to your team and depth at a low cost.

If all he had been was a depth piece, that would probably have been enough at this spot, but he later became a high-value starter and was a particularly integral part of the later years of his 49er tenure, particularly in 2021, when he started every regular-season game and was an absolute force against the run.

He would parlay that into a big contract from the Denver Broncos, and many 49ers fans would say the team hasn't been quite as good against the run since.

It's possible the 49ers agree with that assessment. Many attempts have been made to replace him in the nose tackle role, with Javon Kinlaw among others failing to quite replicate the same level of production.

This possibly explains the recent mooted interest in bringing Jones back.

It's fair to say that if you're still trying to replace a sixth-round pick three years after he's left, the player would qualify for draft-steal status. In many ways, both Jones and the aforementioned George Kittle give Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch's inaugural draft a much better look.

Without these two turning into bonafide starters, the 2017 draft's cupboard would look quite bare, particularly given linebacker Reuben Foster's spectacular flameout.