When I first started putting together a list of the 49ers top draft pick successes of the last twenty years, I focused primarily on later round picks that found a lot of success. However, in reviewing some of the higher picks, it's easy to see some high quality players come along. There are much higher expectations for first and second round picks, but given the bust rate we sometimes see in higher rounds, a strong career is worth recognizing. Which brings me to today's choice.
In 1998, the 49ers used their second round pick, 58th overall, to draft center Jeremy Newberry from across the Bay at Cal. Newberry tore his ACL in offseason mini-camp and missed the first nine weeks of his rookie season, before being inactive the remainder of the season. In 1999 he was moved into the right guard position, where he started all sixteen games. In 2000, the 49ers moved him over to center after Chris Dalman retired. Dalman, a sixth round pick in 1993, was considered for this list but ended up an honorable mention.
Once Newberry moved to center he started 63 of the next 64 games, earning two Pro Bowl nods in 2001 and 2002, and an All-Pro selection in 2002. In 2004, Newberry began suffering knee injuries that would eventually end his 49ers career. He missed 15 of 16 games in 2004, but then returned for ten starts in 2005, a season in which he eaend the Ed Block Courage Award for the second time in his career. He ended up getting microfracture surgery following the 2005 season and missed the 2006 season. He left the 49ers at this point and spent a year each with Oakland and San Diego.
The knee injuries were not shocking, but nonetheless it's a shame that his career was shortened by the knee problems. When I first went through the draft history I wasn't going to include Newberry, but after reviewing what he achieved in his seven seasons I felt he was deserving.
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