Since drafting Jerry Rice with the 16th overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers have invested three first round picks in wide receivers. In 1995 they selected J.J. Stokes with the tenth pick of the first round. In 2004 they selected Rashaun Woods with the 31st pick of the first round. And finally, in 2009 they selected Michael Crabtree with the tenth pick of the first round. We won't be discussing Michael Crabtree on this list, and J.J. Stokes will be addressed at another time.
That leaves us with the man brought in to eventually replace Terrell Owens. After shipping off an unhappy TO, the 49ers moved down from the middle of the first round to the end of the round to eventually select Oklahoma State wide receiver Rashaun Woods with the 31st pick. The 49ers were looking for a replacement for TO (even giving Woods #81, thus beginning that little "curse") and Woods was going to be that guy.
The general consensus was that Woods was a very solid pick who would be able to produce fairly quickly:
An ultra-productive receiver the past three seasons, Woods is a natural football player who competes to win and works to get better. A pressure player that comes through in the clutch against top competition, he may be downgraded because of only average size-speed numbers but should immediately produce as an NFL rookie.
While it seemed like he wasn't viewed as having a huge upside, he was ready to produce right away, which is what the 49ers were going to need with the departure of TO. Scouts Inc had this take on the selection:
The 49ers gambled a little bit early on, and it paid off. By moving down twice in the first round, they were able to acquire several extra picks while still getting a quality first-round receiver in Rashaun Woods. There were lots of questions about Woods' speed until he ran in the low 4.5s at his Pro Day. Woods should be a starter from Day 1, and he will line up opposite second-year pro Brandon Lloyd. Woods has the potential to develop into a solid starter, but he is not going to be a premier No. 1 like Fitzgerald, Roy and Reggie Williams, who were all taken in the top-10.
All in all it seemed like the 49ers had found themselves quite the professional, who could provide some nice depth opposite Brandon Lloyd. Unfortunately draft day was pretty much the highlight of Woods' career. In his rookie season, Woods played in 14 games, catching seven passes for 160 yards. His second year he dealt with injuries that planted him on injured reserve. He was cut after that season, and was cut numerous more times by the Chargers, Broncos and CFL and NFL Europe teams. All in all it was a complete wipe-out of a career.
We can actually attempt to put a "value" to Rashaun Woods NFL career. Pro Football Reference has compiled a stat they call "Approximate Value", which attempts to give a numerical value to all NFL players since 1950. It's got plenty of question marks, but I thought it was worth noting that Rashaun Woods is tied for the worst value at 1 (t-11,873rd place). I don't know how many players he's tied with, but I do know he's tied with one guy we still have to discuss in this ranking.
I think that value as one of the worst players in the history of the NFL sums up Rashaun Woods fairly well. He wasn't a high first round pick with expectations of being a Hall of Fame player. However, he was expected to be a productive member of the team. Instead he simply lacked the desire to be anything more than a useless football player.
49ers Top 10 NFL Draft Busts
3. Rashaun Woods, Wide Receiver, 2004 NFL Draft
4. Mike Rumph, Cornerback, 2002 NFL Draft
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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