This friday there will be a reunion between Mike Nolan and his most famous draftee; Alex Smith. I thought it would be a good time to revisit the Nolan regime and evaluate; with some (maybe not enough) hindsight, the drafts that took place under his watch. Although these draft grades are subjective, they are also completely accurate and not really open to debate (sense of humor check). Here goes:
C- Frank Gore saves this draft class, but when you take a bust with the first pick of the draft you don’t get higher than a D unless you draft Frank Gore. Baas and Snyder have developed into starters with Baas flourishing under Coach Sing’s more physical style of play but when you draft guards in the 2nd and 3rd rounds you kind of expect starters if not eventual pro bowlers (see Chilo Rachal). Billy Bajema was good while he lasted, we drafted Bajema 2.0 aka The Bear this year for less money.
C+ I’d like to give this class a higher grade, but it would be based on potential, not results. Vernon Davis is a head-case, but he’s a damn talented head-case his blocking has been great. He’s been inconsistent as a receiver. Manny Lawson has looked as good as anyone could expect when healthy and will continue to grow into his position. Michal Robinson’s value goes beyond the stat sheet as he’s excelled on special team. Parys Haralson had some monster games this year and may develop into the gem of this class, if he can play at the level he finished this season at expect a breakout year. Delanie Walker has looked good at times as a receiver, not sure why he’s not been a bigger part of the offense. Joe Toledo is named after a city in Ohio, both are on the decline.
A First and most obviously they hit big time on Patrick “The Franchise” Willis AKA BAM BAM! They traded what would have been a very high 1st rounder for Joe Staley, but in hindsight they got what would have been a very high first round pick had Staley stayed in college another year. Staley has started every game for two seasons and has the talent to develop into a pro bowl left tackle. Jason Hill looked disappointing up until this year, but played at a high level towards the end of the season. Ray McDonald joined the team coming off a serious knee injury but would have been a first round selection if healthy; jury is still out on whether he’ll meet his potential, he’s injured again this training camp. Jay Moore is a pretty good comedian; the football player by the same name is on the bubble this year. Dashon Goldson looks good so far in training camp at starting free Safety. Tarell Brown has the athleticism to be a good NFL corner and should challenge for a starting job this year, he’s been set back by a toe injury. Thomas Clayton looks like a feature back in the preseason and has the most preseason yards the last two years. He also has the hottest sister in the league and kisses her on a regular basis. According to the pro bloggers he may not be a great fit for the 9ers due to poor pass blocking and could be trade bait after this preseason.
C+ Kentwan Balmer looked like a bust last year, and if the draft was held over again he wouldn’t go in the first round, but the pre-season spin is that he’s much improved. Chilo Rachal will make the pro bowl within the next five years. Reggie Smith and Cody Wallace look like backups. Josh Morgan had a great pre-season last year but was inconsistent during the regular season, he looks like a number one receiver by all accounts so far this pre-season, we’ll see.
We can say a lot of bad things about Mike Nolan or as I affectionately call him "Son of a Dick!" (I try to meet a personal quota of five bad things a day), but he was a good boy scout in that he left the area better than he found it. I'm pretty happy with the talent on the 49ers roster, here's to hoping the Singletary regime will be better at tapping the potential of said talent.