The Art (and Science) of Drafting: IId. The McNolan Era (2005-2008)

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Sorry about the delay in getting this one posted. My computer crashed yesterday because a genius (aka me) let the battery run out, so I had to wait until it fully recharged (aka today) to continue writing up the piece.

Yesterday, in Part 2c of my review of 49er draft history, I broke down the Donahue regime's picks from 2002-2004 by round, position, and conference. Just to refresh everyone's memory, here was my description of Donahue's draft strategy:

  1. Stockpile picks, especially when your team sucks.
  2. Draft for need on Day 1, especially when your team sucks.
  3. I <3 the Pac-10!
  4. BCS or die!

In comparison with the Walsh II and Policy regimes, Donahue didn't make the Policy regime mistake of trading away picks when the team was good (2002), he used Walsh II's strategy of drafting for need on Day 1 when rebuilding, he brought back the Policy regime's affinity for Pac-10 players, and he surpassed both Walsh II and the Policy regime in percentage of picks that came from BCS conferences

In this article, I'll be ending the regime breakdowns with a look at the McNolan era (2005-2008).

After the jump, I'll put the McNolan drafts in context; break the results down by position, draft day, and conference; sum up the regimes; and provide the idiot's guide to McNolan draft strategy...

Here again is the link to my Excel spreadsheet of 49er draft picks in the Salary Cap Era. I realized that some of you probably don't have Excel 2007, so I converted it to be compatible with older versions (and fixed the link in previous posts as well):

49er Draft Picks 1994-2008

IN CONTEXT

In Part 2c, I told you how Donahue didn't hit the home run he needed to with his rebuilding project in the 2004 draft. One additional piece of evidence for this is the fact that, by the very next draft, Donahue's replacements had to rebuild the roster once more through the draft. Therefore, Donahue's 2004 fire sale and draft has to rank among the shortest rebuilding phases of a franchise in the history of sports (and not in a good way). Now, I'm sure you don't need some long-winded description of what the team has done record-wise since 2004, so I'll just get on with the specific needs in each of McNolan's drafts:

  • 2005 Draft - Key Losses: WR Cedrick Wilson (free agency), OL Kyle Kosier (free agency), OL Jeremy Newberry (career-threatening injury), OL Scott Gragg (free agency), DL John Engelberger (trade), DB Ronnie Heard (free agency), K Todd Peterson (free agency). Weak 2004 Stats: 30th in OFF DVOA; 31st in DEF DVOA; 19th in ST DVOA.1Lingering Issues: Still hadn't found worthy replacements for QB Jeff Garcia, RB Garrison Hearst, WR Terrell Owens, and DB Zack Bronson; major injuries to QB Tim Rattay, LB Andre Carter, DB Ahmed Plummer. Needs: QB, RB, WR, OL, DL, DB, K, LB depth.
  • 2006 Draft - Key Losses: QB Tim Rattay (trade), RB Kevan Barlow (trade), FB Fred Beasley (free agency), WR Brandon Lloyd (trade), WR Johnnie Morton (released), LB Julian Peterson (free agency), LB Andre Carter (free agency), and DB Ahmed Plummer (career-threatening injury). Weak 2005 Stats: 32nd in OFF DVOA; 31st in DEF DVOA. Lingering Issues: Still hadn't found worthy replacements for Garcia, Hearst, Owens, and Bronson; major injury to TE Eric Johnson. Needs: FB, WR, LB, DB, QB depth, RB depth, TE depth.
  • 2007 Draft - Key Losses: WR Antonio Bryant (released), TE Eric Johnson (free agency), OL Jeremy Newberry (free agency), and DB Tony Parrish (released). Weak 2006 Stats: 22nd in OFF DVOA; 28th in DEF DVOA; 18th in ST DVOA. Lingering Issues: Still hadn't found worthy replacements for Owens and Bronson; OL Larry Allen and DL Bryant Young now in their mid-30s. Needs: WR, DB, ST, TE depth, OL depth, DL depth.
  • 2008 Draft - Key Losses: WR Darrell Jackson (free agency), OL Larry Allen (retirement), OL Justin Smiley (free agency), DL Bryant Young (retirement), DL Marques Douglas (free agency), and LB Derek Smith (free agency). Weak 2007 Stats: 32nd in OFF DVOA; 28th in DEF DVOA. Lingering Issues: Still hadn't found worthy replacements for Owens and Bryant; major injuries to QB Alex Smith, OL Jonas Jennings, and LB Manny Lawson. Needs: WR, OL, DL, LB, QB depth.

In preparation for its drafts, McNolan has had to deal with about 7 key losses per offseason, which is fewer than Walsh II (8), but more than Donahue (4) and the Policy regime (4). Interestingly, the course of McNolan's tenure has seen a mixture of his 3 predecessors' draft contexts. The 2005 and 2006 offseasons were Walshian, with about 8 key self-induced, salary-cap-caused losses per season that generally involved kicking dead weight to the curb or trading it for draft picks. The 2007 offseason was Donahue-esque, with only 4 key losses and a team feeling good about itself after a promising season. Finally, 2008 was Policy-like in that there were two retirements to deal with. Overall, I'd say the most similar previous context to McNolan's was the Walsh II era.

I know this is totally off-topic, but, Cedrick Wilson may have made the greatest career decision in the history of the NFL by signing with PIT after the 2004 season. If he stays in SF, he's stuck on a 6-win team for the foreseeable future (at least until he roughed up his ex-girlfriend) catching passes from Rattay, Smith, Ken Dorsey, Cody Pickett, Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill, and Chris Weinke. Instead, he goes to PIT and wins a ring his first season with the team catching passes from Ben Roethlisberger. Seriously, whatever it was that made him leave the Niners, he needs to bottle and sell it. Can you guys think of any other player in recent years who's lucked out like that?

Anyway, back to the regularly scheduled program. For the sake of comparison, here's how McNolan rebuilt the starting lineup in 2005 and 2006:

  • Morton (2005 McNolan free agent signing) for Wilson
  • Snyder (2005 McNolan draft pick) for Kosier
  • OL Eric Heitmann (2002 Donahue draft pick) for Newberry
  • OL Kwame Harris (2003 Donahue draft pick) for Gragg
  • Douglas (2005 McNolan free agent signing) for Engelberger (after moving Young to 3-4 DE)
  • DB Mike Adams (2003 Donahue undrafted free agent signing) for Heard
  • K Joe Nedney (2005 McNolan free agent signing) for Todd Peterson
  • Smith (2005 McNolan draft pick) for Rattay
  • RB Frank Gore (2005 McNolan draft pick) for Barlow
  • FB Moran Norris (2006 McNolan free agent signing) for Beasley
  • Bryant (2006 McNolan free agent signing) for Lloyd
  • WR Arnaz Battle (2003 Donahue draft pick) for Morton
  • Lawson (2006 McNolan draft pick) for Julian Peterson
  • LB Brandon Moore (2002 Donahue undrafted free agent signing) for Carter (after moving him to 4-3 ROLB)
  • DB Shawntae Spencer (2004 Donahue draft pick) for Plummer (after moving him to LCB)

Adding it all up, McNolan rebuilt the starting lineup with 5 traditional free agents, 4 draft picks, and 6 players originally acquired by Donahue. Comparing this to the previous regimes, McNolan used free agency more than Walsh II and Donahue, but less than Policy; and they had a "holdover rate" of 33.3%, which was smack dab in between Walsh II (16.7%) and Donahue (50.0%).

So there's the context. Hopefully you sense a pattern emerging here: the contexts of McNolan drafts have been a cocktail of issues and solutions having the ingredients of each predecessor; 2 ½ parts Walsh II, 1 part Donahue, and ½ part Policy.

PICKS, PICKS, AND MORE PICKS

From 2005-2008, the 49ers made 35 selections in the NFL draft, which nearly equalled the Walsh II and Donahue rate of 9 picks per season. In 2005 and 2006, the main rebuilding years, McNolan stockpiled picks via all those trades I mentioned earlier; just like Walsh II and Donahue. The past 2 drafts, however, McNolan has tended to trade away picks (you're welcome, NE) rather than stockpile them; just like the Policy regime. Once again, the trend here is for McNolan to be a mixture of all 3 predecessor's strengths and weaknesses.

In terms of McNolan's overall Pro Bowl rate, a Donahue-esque and Walshian 5.7% of its picks have become 49er Pro Bowlers (Gore and LB Patrick Willis). However, its starter rate of 34.3% - which includes OL Chilo Rachal's midseason and DB Dashon Goldson's offseason ascensions - is the worst of the 4 regimes (Policy regime = 41.4%; Walsh II = 48.1%; Donahue = 48.1%). When you remember the differences in context between regimes, you realize that McNolan has been way worse at picking starters than the context-similar Walsh II and Donahue regimes, and even worse than the context-different Policy regime, whose superior teams made it harder for draft picks to crack the starting lineup (i.e., the Policy regime's starter rate is artificially low due to context).

Bottom line - Here's what I think are the main things to take away from this section:

  • McNolan has continued the Walsh II and Donahue standard of 9 draft picks per season.
  • McNolan has stockpiled picks when the team sucked, and traded away picks when (they thought) the team was good.
  • McNolan has been as bad at picking Pro Bowlers as the "unlikely to have Pro Bowlers because the team sucked" Walsh II and Donahue regimes, and even worse at picking starters than the "unlikely to have draft selections start because the team was good" Policy regime.
  • Overall, McNolan seems to be channeling the good and bad of its 3 predecessors.

DAY ‘N' NIGHT

McNolan has taken exactly 40% of its picks on Day 1 of the draft, and 60% on Day 2. That's almost identical to Walsh II's 41/59 split, which, as I said in Part 2c, was smack dab between the Policy (52/48) and Donahue (33/67) regimes.

Looking at the relative success of its picks by draft day, we find that 64.3% of McNolan's Day 1 picks have become 49er starters, which is, again, right in the middle of the 4 regimes; not as good as Walsh II's (81.8%, which I incorrectly reported as 64.3% in Part 2b), but basically on par with the Policy regime's (60.0%) and Donahue's (55.6%). Remember, though that Walsh II and Donahue are the better comparisons in terms of team context. On Day 2, an abysmal 14.3% of McNolan picks have become 49er starters, easily the worst of the 4 regimes (again, even worse than the starter-unlikely Policy regime). So while McNolan has had pretty standard success on Day 1 in terms of starters, it's been horrible at picking Day 2 starters.

The best example of this dichotomy between Day 1 and Day 2 results is McNolan's initial rebuilding draft in 2005. Here it is:

Rd

Player

Pos

Starter?

Pro Bowl?

1

Alex Smith

QB

Yes

No

2

David Baas

OL

Yes

No

3

Frank Gore

RB

Yes

Yes

3

Adam Snyder

OL

Yes

No

5

Ronald Fields

DL

No

No

5

Rasheed Marshall

WR

No

No

6

Derrick Johnson

DB

No

No

7

Daven Holly

DB

No

No

7

Marcus Maxwell

WR

No

No

7

Patrick Estes

TE

No

No

7

Billy Bajema

TE

Yes

No

Day 1? 4 picks, 4 starters, 1 Pro Bowler. Day 2? 7 picks, 1 starter, 0 Pro Bowlers. Enough said.

With regard to Pro Bowlers, however, the preferred drink is once again "Regime Cocktail." On Day 1, 14.3% of McNolan's picks have become 49er Pro Bowlers, which is slightly worse than the Pro-Bowl-likely Policy regime (20.0%), considerably better than Donahue (0.0%), and slightly better than Walsh II (9.1%). OK, correction: McNolan drinks Regime Cocktail only on Day 1. That's because, it has yet to pick a Day 2 Pro Bowler. Of course, it's not like the other two Pro-Bowl-unlikely regimes (Walsh II = 6.3%; Donahue = 5.3%) were much better at it.

Bottom line - Here's what I think are the main things to take away from this section:

  • McNolan has had a Walshian 40/60 split of picks between Day 1 and Day 2.
  • McNolan has been worse than Walsh II, but better than Donahue, at picking Day 1 starters.
  • McNolan has been far less successful than the other 3 regimes at picking Day 2 starters.
  • McNolan has been more successful than Walsh II and Donahue at picking Day 1 Pro Bowlers, but slightly worse than these two regimes at picking Day 2 Pro Bowlers.

ASSUME THE POSITION

Here's how McNolan has used its 35 picks by position, unit, and draft day:

Pos

Day 1

Day 2

Total

QB

1

0

1

RB

1

1

2

FB

0

0

0

WR

2

5

7

TE

1

2

3

OL

4

1

5

DL

2

5

7

LB

2

1

3

DB

1

6

7

K

0

0

0

P

0

0

0

OFF Total

9

9

18

DEF Total

5

12

17

ST Total

0

0

0

Total

14

21

35

Overall, McNolan has basically split their picks up evenly between units, which is more similar to what the Policy regime and Donahue did than Walsh II's need-induced DEF preference. Also, like Walsh, McNolan hasn't taken any ST players in the draft. Of course, that may have something to do with having Nedney and ROBO-PUNTER on the roster.  What's most interesting here, however, is that, although OFF has received equal attention on Days 1 and 2, 70.6% of McNolan's DEF picks have come on Day 2.

The even split of OFF picks between draft days is a little misleading because McNolan was actually Walshian in 2005 and 2006 when it had to replace most of the OFF. Going back to that 2005 draft that I showed earlier, you'll notice that all 4 Day 1 picks were on OFF. This continued in 2006 when they selected TE Vernon Davis in the 1st round after Johnson suffered a major injury the previous season. Essentially, McNolan followed the Walsh II example of spending Day 1 of rebuilding drafts addressing the most glaring positional needs. This is really eye-opening when you consider that Scot McCloughan claims to be a devout believer in "best player available." Is he full of sh*t or is the focus on need in Day 1 of the 2005 and 2006 drafts just a coincidence? I'll leave you to decide.

DEF, however, is a different animal altogether. From the table, it's clear that the draft day disparity on DEF has been due to an inordinate amount of Day 2 picks being spent on DLs and DBs. The 5 Day 2 DLs were, in order of selection, Ronald Fields, Parys Haralson, Melvin Oliver, Jay Moore, and Joe Cohen; the 6 Day 2 DBs were Derrick Johnson, Daven Holly, Marcus Hudson, Vickiel Vaughn, Goldson, and Tarell Brown. Looking at these lists, you could say that McNolan has gotten worse over time picking Day 2 DLs, whereas it's gotten better over time picking Day 2 DBs. Either way, aside from Haralson and Goldson, that's a pretty mediocre-at-best bunch. So, if you want to know why the DEF has sucked for so long (before Singletary pulled their heads out of their asses), look no further than McNolan mostly waiting until Day 2 to pick DEF players. Couple this with McNolan's aforementioned horrible starter rate on Day 2, and you get one wet, stinking heap of also-ran-ity.

With 71.4% of picks taken on Day 2, WR is another position at which McNolan has focused little Day 1 attention. The two Day 1 WRs were Brandon Williams and Jason Hill, both 3rd-rounders.

Hopefully, you're starting to see a trend here. McNolan gets credit for using Walsh II's "pick for need on Day 1" and "bites at the apple" strategies. However, it's made the mistake of waiting until Day 2 to take most of their bites at DL, DB, and WR. Perhaps, then, one reason why the Niners haven't been able to get over the mediocre 7-9 hump since 2005 is because their WR, DL, and DB corps are populated with Day 2 picks.

To drive it home, here's one last point about McNolan's (lack of) success wtith DEF picks. On OFF, McNolan's starter rate (44.4%) has been similar to that of the Policy regime (43.8%), Walsh II (50.0%), and Donahue (46.2%). However, the DEF starter rates for the previous 3 regimes were 47.1% for Walsh II, 41.7% for Donahue, and 33.3% for the Policy regime. McNolan's? 23.5%!

All is not lost, however. Unlike Donahue, McNolan seems to have actually learned something about positional picks as its tenure has progressed. Namely, 2 of their 3 picks in 2008 were DEF players. Whether or not DL Kentwan Balmer and DB Reggie Smith pan out in the long run, at least McNolan seems to have noticed that their previous Day 1 picks on DEF have become integral parts of the starting unit. Don't believe me? Here they are: Lawson, Willis, and DL Ray McDonald. So, their results - 2 starters, 1 Pro Bowler, and an emerging pass-rush specialist - were not shabby at all. This suggests that (a) when McNolan commits Day 1 resources to DEF, it's been pretty successful; and (b) the regime seems to have figured this out. So, at the very least, kudos to them for that.

Bottom line - Here's what I think are the main things to take away from this section:

  • Like Walsh II, McNolan has focused its Day 1 picks on the most glaring positional needs (when it had to).
  • McNolan has employed Walsh II's "bites at the apple" strategy at WR, DL, and DB. However, they've primarily waited until Day 2 to take their bites.
  • Given their propensity for waiting until Day 2 for DEF picks, it's not surprising that McNolan has been horrible at drafting DEF starters.
  • Based on 2008, McNolan seems to have learned from their "wait until Day 2 for DEF" mistake.

CONFERENCE ROOM

So far, I've basically told a story about how the McNolan regime's drafts have been a little bit Walsh II, a little bit Donahue, and a little bit Policy; how they've used the good strategies as well as the bad. Basically, not too hot, not too cold; I'll call it "Goldilocks" if you will. The conference breakdown is where that tale ends. There's one regime's lead in particular that McNolan has been happy to follow, and I'm sure you'll easily be able to figure it out. Here's how McNolan's 35 picks shake out by conference: 7 ACC picks, 7 SEC picks, 6 Big 12 picks, 6 Pac-10 picks, 4 Big 10 picks, 1 Big East pick, 1 Conference USA pick, 1 MAC pick, 1 MAII pick, and 1 MWC pick.

BCS anyone? McNolan has taken a Donahue-esque 88.6% of its picks from BCS conferences. I already detailed in Part 2c what I think of this strategy, so you know by now that I don't like it. Now, Scot McCloughan has argued that he takes BCS players because they're (a) less affected by big crowds, (b) more prepared for the NFL, and (c) better team leaders. While all of these may be true in a general sense, the draft isn't about generalities. It's about identifying and acquiring specific talented players. I'm sorry, but when you limit your available talent pool to 6 or 7 college football conferences, you're going to miss the "diamonds in the rough" that teams need to sustain success. Also, McCloughan has made it seem like picking players from BCS conferences is only a Day 1 strategy. The stats say the opposite though: A higher percentage of McNolan's Day 2 picks have come from BCS conferences (90.5%) than have its Day 2 picks (88.6%). Oh, and did I mention that McNolan's first pick ever was a QB from a non-BCS conference (Smith), and that they traded up in 2007 to take an OL from a non-BCS conference (Joe Staley)? That's 2 of McNolan's 4 non-BCS picks being taken with 1st-round picks. Again, is he BSing us here or is this some kind of smokescreen? It's pretty interesting how a general BCS guy like McCloughan can fall in love so much with specific non-BCS players.

And now, I present a second way in which McNolan's conference preferences are similar to Donahue's: They suck just as bad at picking BCS players despite being so BCS-reliant. Wait, let me correct that. They suck even worse. Here's the evidence:

McNolan

Starter?

BCS

Non-BCS

Total

Yes

10

2

12

No

21

2

23

Total

31

4

35

 

Donahue

Starter?

BCS

Non-BCS

Total

Yes

12

1

13

No

13

1

14

Total

25

2

27

You'll recall from Part 2c that Donahue's BCS starter rate (48.0%) was worse than Walsh II's (62.5%) even though Donahue was much more BCS-heavy with his picks. Well, even Donahue's sorry BCS starter rate makes him look like a draft maven when compared to McNolan's. That's because, as the table shows, only 32.3% of McNolan's BCS picks have become regular 49er starters! As I said in Part 2c, if you're going to be limiting your talent pool so drastically, you better be good at evaluating the talent you don't ignore. Clearly, McNolan has not been good in this regard, and has been even worse than the guy for which I invented the argument.

Now, I argued in Part 2c that Donahue's preference for BCS players and lack of success in actually picking good ones was borne out of his dispositional laziness and inattention to draft detail. With respect to McNolan, however, I'm sure this hasn't been the case. To its credit, the McNolan regime has been almost pathologically engaged in draft preparation. After all, they coached the Senior Bowl 3 straight seasons, Scot McLoughan was Director of College Scouting for the Seahawks, and Scot's brother, David, now serves in the same capacity for the 49ers. So I'm kind of perplexed as to why, given their affinity for evaluating college talent, McNolan has shied away from non-BCS players. One might argue that it's because of the Alex Smith experience. However, as has been noted, McLoughan remains a big Smith supporter. So what gives here? Please help.

Bottom line - Here's what I think are the main things to take away from this section:

  • Like Donahue, almost every player McNolan has drafted has been from a BCS conference.
  • Despite its BCS-lust, the McNolan regime has had an even worse BCS starter rate than Donahue.

GENERAL ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION

As I've alluded to throughout this article, the McNolan drafts can be described by one word: Goldilocks. In other words, their porridge hasn't been too hot and it hasn't been too cold; just lukewarm. Here's the evidence:

  • McNolan's draft contexts have been a mixture of its 3 predecessors' contexts.
  • McNolan's been right in the middle in terms of a 49er regime's "draft vs. free agency" bias.
  • McNolan's stockpiled picks in rebuilding drafts ala Walsh II, but also traded away picks in "we feel good about ourselves right now" drafts ala the Policy regime.
  • McNolan's been right in the middle in terms of a 49er regime's Day1/Day 2 split.
  • McNolan's been right in the middle in terms of Day 1 starter and Pro Bowl rate.
  • McNolan has evenly split their picks between OFF and DEF overall.
  • McNolan's used Walsh's "bites at the apple" strategy, but only on Day 2.
  • McNolan's been on par with previous regimes in terms of picking OFF starters.
  • Though it's made Donahue-esque draft strategy errors, McNolan's either learned from those mistakes or has a more valid reason for why they've made them.

All in all, it sure seems like the McNolan regime has been a mixture of the good and bad of the 3 previous 49er regimes. They rebuilt like Walsh II in 2005 and 2006, but they sat on their laurels like Donahue and the Policy regime in 2007. They draft for need on Day 1 like Walsh II, but, like Donahue, only when they have to. They take a lot of bites at the apple like Walsh, but they wait until Day 2 to do it. You get the picture.

To me, understanding the Goldilocks nature of McNolan drafts helps explain why the 49ers have been stuck in "no better than 7-9" mode for the past 3 seasons. If you draft a propensity of mediocre players, or if you have a bunch of mediocre drafts, you're going to find yourself having a mediocre team. Here, another word comes to mind that has been used - with great comic effect - to describe McNolan: vanilla.

In evaluating the 4 Niner regimes since 1994, something has become very clear to me; something that I didn't fully realize until I got to McNolan.  Bill Walsh was the only 49er GM in the past 15 years who went out and tried to be great in the draft. He's the only one who tried to bat 1.000 every time he stepped to the plate. The Policy regime was content to sustain success through free agency, Donahue was content to ride the coattails of Walsh II's drafts, and McNolan has been content to only be great on Day 1. Is it any wonder then that the Walsh II regime was the only one that had an upward win trajectory? Is it a coincidence that Walsh was the only GM to leave the 49ers better off than when he arrived? I mean, the 49ers regressed under the Policy regime and Donahue, and they've stagnated in 7-9 territory under McNolan. After reading my regime breakdowns, do you have any doubt that one important reason for this is because Walsh II's draft strategy differed so drastically from that of McNolan, Donahue, and the Policy regime? In re McNolan, do you think that the "hybrid" defense, not giving Hill the QB job outright, and not firing Nolan after 2007 can be described by any other word except "vanilla?"

Whether it's McSingle nee McNolan or someone else, until the person/people in charge of running the 49ers' drafts stop placing artificial constraints on themselves, and start trying to be great with every pick- by whatever means necessary - I fear the Niners are going to wallow in mediocrity.

Here's a perfect example of what I mean. The Niners need a pass rusher right now more than anything. Go out and draft the best damned pass rusher. If the consensus best pass rusher isn't the one you've identified as the best, then trade down for value and get the guy you want. If the pass rusher you think is going to be great played at (site decorum) Directional University in the Calfornia Penal League, take him anyway. Just don't sit back and wait to draft some OK pass rusher and hope he turns out to be good with a little coaching! Address the (site decorum) need already! In other words, try to be great!

Another example. Right now, you have an arguable draft bust, a good but ragged-armed journeyman, and a player KC didn't even want as your QBs. Go out and draft the best damned QB. Do whatever it takes. If the consensus best QB isn't the one you've identified as the best, then trade down for value and get the guy you want. If the QB you think is going to be great played at (site decorum) Directional University in the California Penal League, take him anyway. Just don't sit back and wait to draft some OK QB and hope he turns out to be good with a little coaching! Address the (site decorum) need already! In other words, try to be great!

You know what team drafts like this? The New England Patriots. But that's Part 3, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow to hear the details. For now, here's the idiot's guide to the McNolan regime's draft strategy:

  1. Stockpile picks when your team sucks, but trade away picks when (you think) your team is good.
  2. Draft for need on Day 1, especially when your team sucks.
  3. Use Day 2 to take a lot of bites at the apple.
  4. BCS or die!
  5. We're Goldilocks (aka Vanilla McNolan).

So, based on this strategy, as well as some specific draft history trends that you can find in my Excel spreadsheet, here's what (and what not) to expect from the 49ers in the 2009 draft:

  1. Don't expect them to take more than 1 player from a non-BCS conference.
  2. Don't expect them to take a pass rusher, QB, or WR at #10.
  3. Don't expect them to take a RB on Day 1.
  4. Expect them to take a WR or two on Day 2.
  5. Expect them to take an OL on Day 1.
  6. Expect more DEF picks (esp. DLs and DBs) on Day 2 than Day 1.
  7. Don't expect them to take a FB, K, or P.

Remember, this is what I expect them to do or not do based on their history. If they end up going against tendency, it's not because the tendencies were wrongly identified. It's because they did something that was unexpected given their history. And there's no harm in that. It's actually worked once or twice (See Willis, Patrick).

That's it for now. Tomorrow, I'll compare the overall 49er draft strategy since 1994, which I identified in Part 1, to that of the Patriots. TO BE CONTINUED...

 

1 DVOA statistics used to produce this article were obtained from Football Outsiders.

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