We're getting into really the crappiest of the crappy as we come down the home stretch of our Top Ten Biggest 49ers NFL Draft Busts since 1990. We'll wrap them up this week with the number one bust on Friday. Then, next Monday we start our top ten biggest 49ers draft successes. That should be slightly better discussion. For now though, we enter into what I considered hallowed territory of awful draft picks. First up, cornerback/safety Mike Rumph.
The 49ers selected Mike Rumph with the 27th overall pick of the 2002 NFL Draft. A look back at that 49ers draft class reveals a fairly hideous group of players. The 49ers did score Eric Heitmann in the seventh round of that draft, but otherwise this is definitely in contention for worst 49ers draft class ever.
Although there were some questions about how long Rumph would last at cornerback, most folks generally applauded the selection:
Rumph brings outstanding size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds), excels in press coverage and is a solid tackler. He has been productive since early in his college career when he led the Hurricanes with four interceptions in 1999. If Rumph struggles at cornerback, the 49ers will have the option to move Rumph inside to safety, where he shouldn't miss a beat. He has the necessary versatility to make the switch. Rumph also provides depth behind starters Ahmed Plummer and Jason Webster at corner.
Every football team needs a big corner to match up with the NBA-type wide receivers in this league. No team knows better about this than the 49ers with Terrell Owens and J.J. Stokes on the team. Mike rose from the second-round area to the late first round in the last month when the coaches studied him on film and worked him out. A solid pick who could some day move to safety if need be. Ronnie Lott came to the Niners as a corner and moved to safety. Bill Walsh still has influence in the draft room and like big, smart defensive backs, and he also plays them early. You never have enough good corners when you're in the same division as the Rams.
Most every NFL Draft pick has a best case and worst case scenario for how they'll pan out. Some players like Patrick Willis or Peyton Manning, among others, are generally safe picks. While you can't guarantee the Hall of Fame performances like we've seen from them to date, they are fairly known quantities for the most part. The same holds true for many later round picks where you know they're just for deep depth or are no better than practice squad bodies.
Rumph had plenty of upside but it became quite clear quite quickly that the 49ers were going to get more of the worst case scenario than the best-case scenario. He really couldn't cover (an occasionally useful skill for cornerbacks) and he didn't bring much in the way of speed. He peaked in his second season, starting 13 games and grabbing three interceptions and two sacks. However, he started a total of five games in 2004 and 2005 and was eventually traded to the Washington Redskins for fellow under-achieving draft pick Taylor Jacobs.
I've got Rumph at number four because I really think people were convinced he would be solid in either the cornerback or safety role. Players after him on our list had arguably much worse careers with the 49ers, but I think expectations were a bit higher for Rumph than these other guys. For fans ready to drink the kool-aid on draft day, they figured worst case he turned into a big hitting safety. Instead he was an injury-prone safety who retired in 2008 without much to show for his career other than a pile of cash (not a bad parting gift).
5. Kentwan Balmer, Defensive End - 2008 NFL Draft
6. Todd Kelly, Outside Linebacker - 1993 NFL Draft
7. Kwame Harris, Offensive Tackle - 2003 NFL Draft
8. Dexter Carter, Running Back - 1990 NFL Draft
9. Reggie McGrew, Defensive Tackle - 1999 NFL Draft
10. Dana Hall, Free Safety - 1992 NFL Draft
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