Boom or Bust for the 49ers’ first-round picks over the last ten years
For the 2017 NFL Draft, the 49ers have the luxury of the second overall pick in the first-round. It’s a great spot considering the amount of talent that are available at this place. Especially with the rebuild that is evidently happening with the new head coach and general manager at the helm. However, the 49ers will need to mull over this idea for awhile as they don’t want to select a bonafide bust with their high selection. Best of all, they can look back at recent history to learn from their previous mistakes.
2007 first-round draft picks: Patrick Willis and Joe Staley
Starting off, we have two of the pillars that helped the 49ers reach the upper echelon during the early 2010’s. They not only got one but two all-pros on their team during this draft year. Patrick Willis would go on to becoming this generation’s most prolific linebacker out of Ole Miss, as Joe Staley would continue to protect the quarterback’s blindside for San Francisco to this day.
Result: Double Boom
2008 first-round draft pick: Kentwan Balmer
Not many people know this, but this was Scot McCloughan’s first draft as the official general manager for San Francisco. This was a particular draft to forget, especially with the first-round pick of North Carolina’s Balmer. The defensive tackle only lasted two seasons with the 49ers before being traded to the Seahawks in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft. He didn’t even record a single sack during his pro career.
2009 first-round draft pick: Michael Crabtree
Crabtree surprisingly landed in the 49ers’ laps with the tenth overall pick as the second wide receiver selected that year (Darrius Heyward-Bey was picked by the Raiders before him). He did start the relationship rocky, as he requested more money on his rookie deal and decided to holdout. However, after everything was settled, Crabtree translated what he did at the college level and brought it to the NFL. Harbaugh even went so far as to say that he has the best hands in the league. Even after his time with the team that drafted him and playing across the Bay, he’s shown why he was worth that pick.
2010 first-round draft picks: Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati
The 49ers were in desperate need of help on the offensive line. They remedied this by
choosing two offensive linemen in Davis and Iupati. Davis had his time with the team and then had a brief retirement, then return, and then retirement again all before he turned 30. Iupati is a pro bowl caliber player that continues to show his prowess at offensive guard with the Cardinals. It’s safe to say that one has surpassed the other.
Result: Boom (Iupati); Bust (Davis)
2011 first-round draft pick: Aldon Smith
It’s hard really how to dictate his career considering all he’s done to destroy it. In his first two seasons with the team, Smith recorded an impressive 33.5 sacks. He was already an all-pro and was thought of as the best defensive player from that draft. Then the legal issues started, and boy did they halt his potential. After FIVE arrests in just four years with the 49ers, he was finally released after a hit-and-run, vandalism, and DUI felony. He now plays for the Raiders and is currently awaiting to be reinstated from his indefinite suspension.
Result: A Boom and a Bust (really just an enigma)
2012 first-round draft pick: AJ Jenkins
He recorded zero catches with the 49ers. He has a career total of seventeen catches for 223 yards and zero touchdowns. Calling this man a bust is an understatement. The team could’ve picked Alshon Jeffrey instead.
Result: BIG BUST
2013 first-round draft pick: Eric Reid
He’s one of the few bright spots in an awful defense. He made it on the pro bowl team in his rookie season and continued to keep producing at a high level. He will be a major part of the team moving forward in the rebuilding period and will remain a fan favorite with the team.
2014 first-round draft pick: Jimmie Ward
Ward is the swiss army knife of the defense as he can play every position in the secondary. He keeps improving his game with each season that goes on as he’s essentially locked up the starting cornerback position. He can only look to take his game above and beyond with the way he competes.
2015 first-round draft pick: Arik Armstead
At 6’7″ and 292 pounds, this physical specimen has disappointed since his arrival. He’s shown flashes of brilliance but still can’t find himself on the field with injury concerns. Hopefully, this new defensive scheme will help his game and take full advantage of his size and athleticism.
Result: Bust (so far)
2016 first-round draft picks: DeForest Buckner and Joshua Garnett
Buckner’s performance in his rookie year was a telling sign as to how great he will be with the team. He looked as if he was the defensive MVP of the team as he racked up a team-high six sacks and caused plenty of havoc to opposing backfields. He’s done a great job of showing that he’s up there with the many other pass rushers that were used with the seventh overall pick by the 49ers (ie Bryant Young, Andre Carter, and Aldon Smith). He is a solid building block for this team moving forward.
Garnett, on the other hand, has been underperforming. The team traded up for him as the replacement for the aforementioned Iupati. Since then he hasn’t done much to show that he is that answer. Hopefully, with Shanahan’s new system in place, Garnett will show why the team traded up for him.
Result: Buckner (Boom); Garnett (Bust)
Hopefully, the 49ers will benefit from their current position in the draft. Many believe that the team will go after a quarterback like Mitchell Trubisky. If this happens, then it would be just the tenth time the team has used a first-round pick on a quarterback in franchise history.