The offseason is the time for lists, rankings and contentious opinions. While ESPNs ranking of draft steals was favorable to the 49ers, there were still some glaring omissions from the list.
While football fans whittle away the lonely hours until training camp begins and preseason truly gets underway, ESPN decided to fill the void and get fans into an argumentative mood with their list of the 50 biggest draft steals of the last decade.
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With the San Francisco 49ers having a knack for finding some talent late in the draft, you would be correct in assuming they feature on this list. You would be correct in this assumption, as it has some pretty highly ranked players.
Tight end George Kittle, linebacker Fred Warner and wide receiver Deebo Samuel made the list at No. 8, No. 9 and No. 14, respectively. In addition defensive tackle Javon Hargrave made the list at No. 41 as well being drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2016.
Despite having some good representation, there were some questionable omissions being made in this list. This list is hardly gospel and is just an offseason article designed to tide us over, but we're going to nitpick all the same.
It's important to note the rules that ESPN set out, which are as follows:
"First-rounders weren't included, even if they were taken late on Day 1. Undrafted free agents were also excluded since the list would skew in that direction.- Matt Miller and Jordan Reid
To qualify, a player must have been drafted at least 15 spots -- roughly half a round -- later than he should have been, and that's just the floor for the exercise.
There aren't any 2023 draft picks here -- they haven't even played a game yet! Only players drafted between 2013 and 2022 were eligible for our ranking."
We have to make a rough guess as they don't exactly explain more, but the second prequisite might be where these following 49ers players failed to qualify:
This one you could make an argument would be way too early to put in the top 50 of the last decade, but who doesn't love the story of the plucky Mr. Irrelevant emerging from obscurity to help push the 49ers to the NFC Championship? The loss isn't even on his shoulders, as he was knocked out too early to have an impact.
Maybe he falls short because of the short sample size or they think Brock Purdy should have been undrafted, but ask yourself this: would you rather Purdy or current New Orleans Saints quarterback Derek Carr who was No. 24 on this list?
I have to assume they didn't think linebacker Dre Greenlaw was going any higher than he did as a fifth-round selection for the 49ers, because I can't think of any other reason why one of the best defensive players on the best defense in the NFL did not make this list.
An elite sideline to sideline linebacker who forms a potent duo with the listed Warner, Greenlaw was a definite snub and didn't even make the honorable mentions.
Oh come on.
The fifth-round pick from 2021 that was one of the big breakout stars in the NFL in 2022 and a first team All-Pro at safety, was not good enough to be listed in the top 50 or among the honorable mentions.
That's just a frankly staggering omission. You could make arguments for Purdy and Greenlaw off the list, but not Talanoa Hufanga.
Hufanga is unlikely to notice this omission however as training camp draws nearer and nearer. The 49ers are getting ready for a real tilt at the Super Bowl, and a sixth Lombardi Trophy for the mantelpiece.