This probably would have been a little more timely last week, but better late than never. NFL Draft grades have only so much value in the time-frame immediately after the draft. One common refrain is that you have to wait at least three full seasons to judge a draft because of the development time that can factor in. At the same time, I enjoy reviewing the grades as much for the analysis that comes with it as much as anything else. Some times will get graded out very high for a great first couple of rounds, while others generate solid grades thanks to all-around drafts. Of course, for late round picks, grades are even tougher to assign.
For those who missed it, Drew K put together his own grades for the 49ers draft, and we opened up a poll to get people's opinions. Drew gave the team a B+, while the grades among the users (2,026 votes), ranged primarily between B+ and A. I'd imagine a lot of us factored the undrafted free agents into the grading, which bumped us up for some (until Blount changed his mind). However, I can't imagine it was so much as to throw it completely off.
Thankfully for me, Football Outsiders put together a 2010 NFL Draft report card report, which makes the legwork much easier. FO looked at 15 draft graders from an assortment of "mainstream" media that included folks ranging from ESPN to traditional newspapers to Bleacher Report to Internet-based sites like National Football post.
Upon reviewing the 15 graders, the 49ers finished with a 3.467 GPA (just averaged all the grades), which was good for third among all teams, behind only the #2 Baltimore Ravens and #1 Seattle Seahawks. The Raiders and Patriots finished fourth and fifth, respectively. The 49ers highest grades were three As, while their lowest was a C+ by the NFP writer.
After the jump I've posted the 49ers grades and comments for each of the 15 media members. It's a mix of As and Bs with the one C+ doing the most to drag the GPA down (as is SO often the case). The grades are great for in-the-moment thinking, but we all know it'll be some time before we really know how this draft class plays out.
Mel Kiper: B
Give San Francisco credit. Early on in the draft it had a chance to get better in a couple of places and decided to get a lot better in one. But consider the trickle-down effect: By taking Anthony Davis, the left tackle with the highest upside in the draft -- emphasis on "upside" -- and then a lock to be a good NFL guard in Mike Iupati, the Niners are a better running team right now. The passing game suddenly seems better, as well. Taylor Mays at No. 49 is a good value selection, and the kid will be motivated, but I think we're past pretending he was a steal because of his size-speed combination. His tape fell really flat. Navorro Bowman has size questions, but he's better than No. 91 overall. Can't forget San Francisco added some depth at wide receiver via the trade for Ted Ginn Jr.
Scouts Inc: Scouts Inc went with a numerical system that they felt provided a "fair and analytical look at each team's draft." The 49ers finished second in their rankings, but I think FO counted it as an A- grade. I'm not really sure
Mike Singletary's football team beefed up the offensive line with two picks in the top 17 (OT Anthony Davis and G Mike Iupati), and the next two picks (ILB Navorro Bowman and S Taylor Mays) made the defense tougher down the middle. Getting WR Ted Ginn Jr. in a trade with the Dolphins for virtually nothing doesn't hurt, either.
The NFL.com fan balloting didn't have any commentary, but they did break down grades by round as they came in. The 49ers got an A- for their first two rounds, and then B+ for each of the remaining rounds.
Daniel Wolf, Bleacher Report: A - This grade seems to be based entirely on the first three picks with no real consideration for the rest of the draft, at least as far as the analysis seems to show. Take it for what it's worth.
Analysis: Revamping the offensive line and filling a big need in the secondary are just a taste of the Niners' next step to taking over the NFC West.
Best pick: Guard Mike Iupati was a nice pick with the 17th choice in the first round. He is a tough guy who will help the run game.
Questionable move: Taking safety Taylor Mays in the second round. I think he lacks cover skills that will show up in the NFL.
Third-day gem: I like running back Anthony Dixon, who was taken in the sixth round. He was a productive runner at Mississippi State.
Analysis: They landed two good offensive linemen with their first two picks, with Anthony Davis going first. I like that, but they took Mays too high, which drops the grade down.
With an established star in Frank Gore, many casual fans might have thought the 49ers were among the best running teams in the league, but an inability to gain an inch on short-yardage plays made addressing the offensive line a huge concern for coach Mike Singletary. Trading up to No. 11 to get Anthony Davis might have been an unnecessary move, as he likely would have been available to the 49ers at their original No. 13 selection. He provides the 49ers with a quality athlete in tandem with current left tackle Joe Staley. Having athletic tackles will help in Mike Iupati's adjustment to the NFL's speedier pass rushers. Few, if any, prospects in this draft presented Iupati's power as a drive blocker. The 49ers may as well have had a third-round pick by getting Taylor Mays in the mid second. The intimidating presence over the middle fills a big area of need. Third-round pick Navarro Bowman, on the other hand, was an odd choice, given that he lacks the size most teams are looking for in a traditional edge rusher. Sixth-round pick Anthony Dixon could surprise as a goal-line back to spell Frank Gore. Sticking to their philosophy of controlling the line of scrimmage, the 49ers may have emerged as the NFC West favorite with this draft.
The 49ers made Frank Gore and Alex Smith better players by drafting a left side of the offensive line in Davis and Iupati. They will help San Francisco win the physical battles up front, and Mays will help win them on defense.
(Day 1: A; Day 2: A): Not sure that anything happened on Day 3 to change the Niners' grade. RB Anthony Dixon (No. 173) and TE Nate Byham (No. 182) should just add to the haul that included Anthony Davis (No. 11), Mike Iupati (No. 17) and Taylor Mays (No. 49). Final Grade: A
The 49ers bolstered their offensive line and didn’t take a quarterback, meaning they will stick with
Alex Smiththis season. Anthony Davisof Rutgers will be given every chance to start at right tackle this season while Idaho guard Mike Iupati is a tremendous run blocker with a nasty streak. These two players will allow the 49ers to pound the ball while also providing Smith with better pocket protection. Free safety Taylor Mays of USC was considered a top ten pick a year ago, but he slipped this season because he didn’t track the deep ball very well and missed so many interception opportunities. But Mays can run and tackle and should be a good fit. He is motivated to prove his worth, too. Mississippi State RB Anthony Dixon was a one-man offense in college and is a good fit behind Frank Gore. LB Navorro Bowman played well at Penn State, but his draft stock fell because of some off-the-field issues.
Their offensive line has been upgraded. Offensive tackle Anthony Davis is raw but extremely talented. Mike Iupati should be a superb guard and might be athletic enough to play tackle. Although he must prove himself as a pass defender, Taylor Mays hits as hard as coach Mike Singletary did back in the day. The Niners should challenge for the NFC West title in 2010.
A terrific draft. Offensive line solidified with Davis and Iupati. Mays could start from Day One, too. Bowman was a steal in the third round. Dixon can relieve Frank Gore.
The club sent a clear message by using their two first-round picks (11th and 17th overall) to beef up the O-line with tackle Anthony Davis and guard-tackle Mike Iupati. This should boost Frank Gore's effectiveness and help fix short-yardage woes. Hard-hitting safety Taylor Mays brings a bonus. Miffed that he was bypassed by his former college coach Carroll, May will have extra incentive for two games a year vs. Seattle.
Nolan Nawrocki, Pro Football Weekly: A - They gave As to anybody that could grab 4 projected starters. Given what was said after the draft, I'm guessing they see Bowman as the eventual successor to Takeo Spikes.
With two first-round picks, the Niners had the potential to make a strong impact, and GM Trent Baalke and Mike Singletary made a big splash with the addition of two powerful offensive linemen — Anthony Davis, for whom they traded a fourth-round pick to move up two spots to secure, and Mike Iupati — establishing a new core in the trenches. S Taylor Mays is a four-year starter with a unique physical skill set, and Penn State ILB Navorro Bowman is a solid football player. All four have starter potential and should stand to mature under the guidance of Singletary. Their fifth-round pick was dealt to Miami for Ted Ginn Jr., who could stretch the defense and bring an element of excitement to the return game. WR Kyle Williams could also factor into the return game and potentially as a slot receiver. RB Anthony Dixon had some character concerns but could add more power to the backfield. TE Nate Byham can help establish a power run game as an in-line blocker. And CB Phillip Adams has developmental potential. Collectively, the Niners addressed a pressing need on the offensive line and could come away with more than four starters, including three who should start from Day One. Although there is some risk involved with the 20-year-old Davis, Mays, Bowman and Dixon, Singletary has shown he can shape up a roster.
The 49ers' decision to trade up for Anthony Davis has been questioned, but what's most important is that San Francisco got its man. Davis will likely take over as the Niners' starting left tackle by 2011, with Joe Staley moving to the right side. Fellow first-round pick Mike Iupati will make Frank Gore's life a lot easier going forward.
Taylor Mays at 49th overall and sixth-round tailback Anthony Dixon were perhaps GM Trent Baalke's best picks. Mays will make Michael Lewis expendable while Dixon vies with Glen Coffee to be Gore's backup. Dixon is a thumping inside runner with underrated receiving skills. Third-round pick Navorro Bowman isn't a great scheme fit, but Nate Byham gives the Niners the blocking tight end they've desperately wanted. Sixth-round return man Kyle Williams and seventh-round defensive back Phillip Adams probably won't make the team.
Davis, Iupati, and Mays will be first-year starters. Though some of the team's later-round picks were uninspiring, the Niners are among the most improved teams in the league.
Not a big fan of the Anthony Davis and Taylor Mays picks. But grabbing OG Mike Iupati in the first and TE Nate Byham and RB Anthony Dixon late gives this class some intriguing overall talent. Plus, keep an eye on third-round pick Navorro Bowman, who’s a boom-or-burst linebacker.