In my 2nd edition of previous 49ers drafts and how they could coincide with the upcoming NFL entry draft, i have decided to take a look at previous 49er picks that can be considered "gems". For years now i have had an interest in the mid to late rounds of the NFL Draft, this is where organizations are built, at least in my opinion. So many times over the course of the modern draft players have been overlooked, only to perform well above those selected in the 1st round, even the top 10 in some cases. The 49ers have been as good as any team in the NFL in identifying these players and adding to the talent level in the mid to late rounds. For the purposes of this article i will focus on 49er drafts of the past 15+ years in rounds 3-7. I believe you will be incredibly interested to see what the 49ers have done and how they have succeeded in the mid to late rounds.Now i understand that we have a completely new front office, especially with the departure of Scott M, but if they 49ers can equal their mid to late round success in the first two rounds then they will be contention for the foreseeable future.
1994: 6(182) LB- Lee Woodall
The NFL did not officially keep tackle totals until the 2001 season, but i can nearly guarantee that Woodal surpassed 100 tackles in 6 of his seasons with the 49ers. Lil Holyfield as i call him ended up starting a staggering 104 games for the 49ers, as a 6th round pick this is an amazing feat. Selected to two Pro Bowls, Woodal stood for hustle, passion, quickness and intelligence and helped the 49ers defense remain one of the best in the NFL during his tenure with the team.
1996: 3(89) WR- Terrell Owens
I understand many 49er fans have a major issue with TO and how he left the organization and showed amazing disrespect for Jerry Rice and the powers to be within the front office, but no one can deny what this man has done on the football field. Amazingly, Owens was the 12th receiver selected in the 1996 draft, behind the likes of Alex Van Dyke, Bryan Still and Derreck Mayes. In 14 NFL seasons Terrell Owens has surpassed the 1,000 yard mark nine times, been selected to 9 Pro Bowls, totaled over 1,000 career receptions, nearly 15,000 yards and 144 touchdowns. In retrospect an argument could be made that Owens should have been the 1st overall pick in the draft, nonetheless he will go down as one of the best wide receivers in the modern era and most certainly become a pro football hall of famer.
Two of my favorite selections in 49ers history, both will go under the radar, but had a major impact on the 49ers as a whole. In a draft when the 49ers selected R.W. McQuarters in the 1st round, serenity can be found in these two picks. Fred Beasley is right up there with Tom Rathman and William Floyd as the best fullbacks to ever put on a 49ers uniform. Despite only playing 4 seasons with the 49ers, Lance Schulters made an immediate impact, starting 41 games total and picking off 6 passes in just his second season. I wish that Schulters hadn't played with such reckless abandon on the field, otherwise he would still be in the league making plays
2000: 3(86): LB- Jeff Ulbrich
Another one of my all-time favorite 49ers, it is going to be hard not seeing him on the 49ers, but he gave us everything he had and more in 10 seasons with the team. Not ultra talented by any means, Ulbrich was just that type of player we all heard our fathers or grandfathers speak of. He ended up starting 75 games for the 49ers, standing out as a special teams ace, mentor and all around great guy. Ulbrich ended his career with nearly 500 career tackles
2001: 7(224) TE- Eric Johnson
A little known Wide Receiver from Yale, Johnson will go down as the player Bill Walsh nearly "forced" the 49ers to draft, while just watching him on tape. Another great move by the late great Bill Walsh. Statistically speaking, Johnson didn't have a standout career. He only started 47 games for the 49ers and had a career year in 2004 with 84 receptions. But his value to the team in his short time there cannot be measured in statistics alone.
To get two starting caliber offensive linemen in the 7th round is one amazing feat, but to get the most consistent player on your team over the last decade is something much more. Eric Heitmann has started 114 games for the 49ers including all 16 in five of his last six seasons, how is that for value? Kyle Kosier on the other hand didn't really get the chance to show his grit with the 49ers, only starting 29 games in his three seasons with the 49ers, but once he moved on Kosier has made a name for himself in Dallas starting all 16 games in three of the last four seasons. He has been nothing less than the most consistent Cowboys offensive linemen during that span. I am just a little upset that he is no longer with the 49ers, him being on the 49ers would mean that they wouldn't be so desperate to find a tackle in the 2010 draft
2003: 6(197) WR- Arnaz Battle
Not the most gifted wide receiver to ever dawn a 49ers uniform, Arnaz Battle has been 2nd to none, well maybe Jerry Rice, in terms of work ethic. A quarterback at Notre Dame, Battle made a seamless transition to the receiver slot in the NFL. In his 7 seasons with the 49ers, which came to an end this off-season, Battle may not of had the overwhelming statistics, but he sure knew how to play the game.
2004: 6(188) P- Andy Lee
Rarely will a punter taken in the 6th round be on this list, but i will make an exception for one of the best punters to ever play the game, yes i said it, one of the best. Whenever you get a perennial pro bowler in the 6th round it has to considered a steal, no matter what position he plays.
2005: 3(65) RB- Frank Gore
The 6th RB taken in the 2005 draft, i really don't have to tell you what Frank Gore has accomplished, but i will anyway. Taken after the likes of J.J. Arrington and Eric Sheton, Gore has surpassed the 1,000 yard mark four consecutive seasons, breaking a 49ers record. The man has a staggering 4.8 career rushing average and has scored nearly 50 combined touchdowns in his first 5 seasons with the 49ers, in 2009 he totaled 13 touchdowns combined. A threat blocking, running and yes receiving Frank Gore will be mentioned in terms of the Hall of Fame if he continues to put up numbers like this in the next couple of seasons. Adding to this is the fact that Gore has over 220 receptions in 5 seasons and is one of the most passionate leaders on the up and coming San Francisco 49ers team.
2006: 5(140) LB- Parys Haralson
After a breakout 2008 season, Haralson came back to earth in 2009 but still have combined for 13 sacks the last two seasons. Lets just look at the fact that this draft included the likes of Kamerion Wimbley in the 1st round, we have to consider this a steal. Haralson who is pretty darn good at getting to the QB is only 26 and has many more years of productivity left in the tank.
2007: 4(126) S- Dashon Goldson
Goldson had a breakout season in 2009 and promises to add to that. A complete ball hawk, Goldson recorded 94 tackles, 4 picks, 3 forced fumbles and 2 sacks in 2009. As Mike Singletary put it recently "I can handle the bad angles and missed coverage if he continues to make plays and force fumbles. Look for Goldson to get major pro bowl consideration in 2010. I am going on straight potential here, but Tarell Brown has to be put on the list, despite struggling after getting considerable playing time in 2009, Brown has the look of a corner that can start for years to come.
2008: 6(174) WR- Josh Morgan
Is it too early to put Josh Morgan on this list? My answer is an strong NO!!! From his rookie season it was obvious that Morgan would contribute a great deal to the 49ers offense. Is he going to be more than a #2 WR in the NFL? Time will tell, but he will be given the chance in 2010. Even if Morgan is going to be nothing more than a good #3 WR with the 49ers, he still has to be considered a steal in the 6th round. Morgan had 52 receptions in 2009 and came on real strong towards the end, really connecting with Alex Smith and combining for 28 receptions in his final 6 games. I expect another solid season with much improvement in 2010.
I understand this is a laundry list of names, but doesn't that say something about the 49ers ability to find talent in the ladder rounds? In 2010 i am looking for big things from the 49ers in these rounds, especially considering that this draft class is considered one of the deepest in recent memory, especially in the 49ers position(s) of need. Let us not forget about these rounds, even when conventional thought and hoopla surrounds the early rounds of the draft. This is really where the front office earns their money and where i believe Mike Singletary can make himself known as not just a great head coach, but a real good talent observer. Here is to expecting big things from him and the 49ers come April