Now that we are almost a year removed from the 49ers 2010 draft it makes sense to take a look at it through an analytical lens. Each player has had a year to show what they are made up, and prove to the 49ers that they are part of the future. Additionally, certain players that 49er fans wanted had the same opportunity for their respective teams. As it stands, the 1st round should be considered a success. Anthony Davis, and even more so, Mike Iupati were extremely impressive this season. However, players like Navorro Bowman and Taylor Mays failed to impress.
This post will take a look at what went right and what went wrong for the 49er rookie class. Additionally i will analyze various rookies that were taken immediately following the 49er picks. It makes sense to compare and contrast the success and/or failures of said players because the links between them will remain for the immediate future. For example, did it make sense for the 49ers to grab Anthony Davis considering that Earl Thomas was available at 11? And, did the 49ers play into the hype that was Taylor Mays rather than stay proactive in finding a more sound safety?
After the jump i will give a detailed analysis of each player the 49ers drafted and compare them to other players the 49ers had an opportunity to select. Keep in mind, I am only going to draw comparisons between players that fell under the 49ers need category. For example, I will not address a player like Sean Weatherspoon in this article. Simply because he wasn't a player the 49ers were or should have been targeting.
1st Round, 11th Pick: OT- Anthony Davis
Davis had his struggles this season, however, he progressed a great deal during his rookie campaign. By season's end Anthony Davis had become a real solid offensive tackle. Personally, i believe that his potential is through the roof. One major issue that i see is the fact that Davis tends to get real high when blocking opposing defender. This keeps him off balance and enables the defender to take control of the match up. However, that is something that he can work on with good coaching
Options after Anthony Davis:
Most of the players picked after Anthony Davis really did struggle. For Example, Brandon Graham finished with just 13 tackles and 3 sacks in only 6 starts. Jason Pierre-Paul played in all 16 games and accumulated 4.5 sacks, he appeared lost at times and wasn't in the regular rotation. At seasons end, Pierre-Paul had recorded 30 tackles. We all knew that he was going to be a project because of his one season of Division 1 football, but the learning curve appears to be much greater than first thought. Derrick Morgan played in just four games for the Titans, recording 1.5 sacks and just three tackles before he tore his ACL in October. One major concern for 49er fans is the fact that Earl Thomas had an amazing rookie season for our rival Seattle Seahawks. He started all 16 games, intercepting 5 passes and accumalating 60 tackles. Thomas promises to be a perennial all-pro performer.
1st Round, 17th Pick: G- Mike Iupati
Iupati probably played the best of any rookie offensive linemen in the 2010 draft. Rest assured that he will be a multiple time pro bowl performer. In fact, Iupati could have easily been selected to the pro bowl this season. The 49ers went from averaging about 2.5 yards per rush behind LG in 2009 to over 5 yards per rush in 2010. If that is indicative of what Iupati brings, this is a great pick.
Options after Iupati:
Now some of these players had standout rookie seasons. For example, Bryan Bulaga is the starting right tackle for the NFC Champion, Green Bay Packers.Aaron Rodgers, who was sacked a NFL high 50 times in 2009, had that toal drop to 31 in 2010. Additionally, Green Bay averaged nearly five yards per rush in 2010. Devin McCourty had a rediculous 7 interceptions in 2010, while making 60 tackles and defending 17 passes. Those totals enabled McCourty to be selected to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season. A real nice feat for the 26th pick in the draft. He is a prime example as to why the New England Patriots continue to remain on top season after season.
The other two on this list, Kareem Jackson and Demaryius Thomas, didn't fare nearly as well. Jackson was brought in by Houston to replace the departed Dunta Robinson, and helped "lead" the Texans to the 32nd ranked pass defense in the NFL. Not exactly the upgrade you are looking for with a pick in the 1st round. Demaryius Thomas only caught 22 passes for Denver in 2010. His reception total lagged behind later round picks such as Jacoby Ford(4th round), and David Gettis (6th round).
2nd Round, 48th Pick: S- Taylor Mays
Mays started 6 games and compiled 38 tackles in 2010. What started out promising ended up with a myriad of different questions. Can Mays cover good enough to be an impact safety in the NFL? Can he read offenses and "QB" the secondary? I don't think any of these questions were answered his rookie season. Listen, Taylor Mays has all the athletic ability in the world, and can turn into an elite safety. I really think that Ed Donatell will help him progress as a player, and i expect big things out of him next season.
Options after Mays:
CB- Javier Arenas (50th Pick, Kansas City Chiefs), DE- Jason Worilds (52nd Pick, Pittsburgh Steelers), DE- Jermaine Cunningham (53rd Pick, New England Patriots), DE- Carlos Dunlap (54th Pick, Cincinnati Bengals),
First, for the purpose of full disclosure i have to admit the following. When Jimmy Clausen was dropping down the draft board, and it was getting close to the 49ers pick, i was truly hoping that we would have grabbed the Notre Dame star. Well in hindsight, Clausen had a poor 2010 season, and my projection of him as a solid NFL QB may never come true. That said, onto the players that were selected following Taylor Mays.
I was extremely high on Javier Arenas heading into the 2010 draft, and he did not disappoint. Arenas played in all 16 games and had 3 sacks as well as 43 tackles. However, his importance was more on special teams than it was on defense. Arenas accumalated more than 830 yards on punt and kick returns. Additionally, he was a standout coverage man on kickoffs and punts. Arenas may never be more than a 2nd corner, but i wouldn't mind having his athleticism on the 49ers. Jason Worilds had two sacks and 17 tackles, not really what your looking for in a rookie 2nd round pick.
However, Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap had solid rookie seasons. Cunningham started 11 games, but only had 1 sack. That said, he was pretty darn solid against the run and i expect New England to utilize him more in 2011. Carlos Dunlap, on the other hand, was a real standout. He had a whopping 9.5 sacks in just 12 games and no starts for the Bengals. It is really hard to gauge whether or not picking Mays was the right decision, especially after just one season. I really do like his potential, but both Javier Arenas and Carlos Dunlap had better rookie seasons.
3rd Round, 91st Pick: LB- Navorro Bowman
Make no mistake about it, Navorro Bowman is our TED LB of the future. He has loads of potential and will be working behind Patrick Willis, and hopefully, Takeo Spikes. However, his rookie season wasn't without problems. Bowman had major issues in coverage and looked confused at times. Some of his errors were magnified because they resulted in big plays for the opposing offense, but he really needs to get that fixed ASAP.
Optins after Bowman
Kevin Thomas injured his knee following the draft and missed the 2010 season, so its hard to gauge him. I do think that he will have value when/if healthy. Jimmy Graham had 31 receptions and over 350 yards receiving in 2010, this after he was brought in as a backup blocking TE. It appears that Graham will now be the Saints TE of the futue after Jeremy Shockeycalls it quits. However, i do think it would have been hard for the 49ers to justify spending a 3rd round pick on a TE with Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker on the roster.
Brandon Ghee was pretty much a special teams player when active. And, he wasn't active all too often, only seeing action in six games. It seems that the Bengals pretty much wasted a pick here. He was placed on injured reserve in the beginning of December. Curran had little to no impact in 2010 for the Titans, he recorded just 8 tackles. Considering how the players turned out following the pick of Bowman, i must conclude that it was a great pick. He will be our starting LB in the next couple of seasons, and we acquired a 2011 4th round pick from San Diego to boot.
Considering the impact players San Francisco drafted in the first 3 rounds of the 2010 NFL Draft, i would have to give them a solid A with these picks. Mike Iupati is going to be a perennial all-pro performer. You cannot ask for more than that with any 1st round pick, let alone a mid 1st round selection. Anthony Davis continued to progress as a tackle in the NFL, and if he continues on this path it is going to be hard to question the 49ers decision to trade up for him. Taylor Mays regressed during his rookie campaign, but i have to believe that the addition of Ed Donatell as the Secondary Coach is only going to help Mays. I fully expect Mays to come out like a gang buster in 2011.
On the exterior it would seem that the selection of Bowman in the 3rd round would seem like a reach. However, it must be noted that he has the skills and framework to succeed as an NFL LB, not to mention the fact that San Francisco received the Chargers 4th round pick this season in a trade that brought Bowman to the 49ers. Consequently, Donald Butler, the LB San Diego received in the trade missed the entire 2010 season due to injury. Yet another aspect of the Bowman pick is how poorly the players selected after him performed.
If Trent Baalke had any say during the 2010 draft, which i believe he did, expectations should be incredibly high moving into the 2011 draft season. Couple that with the addition of Jim Harbaugh, and we may have a winning combination.