The 49ers have been gathering players from the top of the Draft for seven of the past eight years. Those plumb pickings will not be seen again for many, many years. I’d like to say they’ll never be seen again, but sometime in the future hard times will surely come again. If applied solely to my lifetime, though, “never” is a viable possibility. You fellows who grunt and sweat under a weary load after I’ve gone to play base harp in the clouds will have to deal with a longer never lifeline.
Beginning in 2012, the 49ers will be hunkered down there in the basement of the first round, picking through the leftovers along with the Packers, Saints, Patriots, Steelers, Ravens — the elite teams, somewhere around five hours after the first team goes on the clock and takes Andrew Luck. Every year some fluke team gets stuck in this best of what’s left section, like last year’s Seahawks and the 2009 Cardinals before them. But the Niners will belong in this section and they will be here for the next ten years or more.
The one year out of the eight above mentioned years that the Niners weren’t picking at the top of the draft, 2008, was the year they drafted Kentwan Balmer in the 29th slot. Not Scott McCloughan’s finest hour. Balmer did nothing for three teams in three years and is now doing nothing at his mom’s house. Guys at the bottom of the first round are really second round talents and second round talents are often first round talents with a major caveat next to their resumes. Upsides (i.e., not ready for prime time), head cases, injury concerns, drug rumors. Or they are just, you know, second round talent. Good, but not great, players.
Picking at the bottom of each round is going to be a challenge for GM Trent Baalke. Effectively, the great teams do not have first round picks. They don’t get to select Can’t Miss players. The only way back into the top of the draft is to trade your way up there. Like Bill Walsh did to get Jerry Rice.
For the Blogopolis, this means lusting over the premier players will no longer be a sinful enterprise. While this may be good for our eternal ledgers, it will be a tough rehab effort in the present. Drooling over the super talents will have to give way to lukewarm zeal for the second bananas.
And the penalty for success is applied in each and every round, always picking the worst of that round’s talent, or the best of the following round’s — depending on your point of view or Kool-aid preference.
Baalke’s brief track record with later round picks is very encouraging, given this new draft day scenario. Navorro Bowman and Chris Culliver in the third, Kendall Hunter in the fourth, Anthony Dixon, Nate Byham, and Kyle Williams in the sixth, and Bruce Miller in the seventh. All of these guys are keepers. The jury’s still out on fifth round guard/center Daniel Kilgore, but he looked promising in the preseason before going on the game day inactive list for the entire regular season.
Still, Less Exciting First Round Drafts = More Exciting Real Season Sundays. That’s an equation we can all embrace.