49ers Top 10 NFL Draft Successes: No. 5 - Eric Heitmann, Center

Since the draft is starting on Thursday, we're bumping up one of our draft success posts to today so that we can wrap this up with our number one draft success on Thursday. Today's pick is a guy who in recent years I feel was one of the more underrated centers, if not the most underrated in the NFL.

In 2002, the San Francisco 49ers used the first of three 7th round picks, number 239 overall, on guard Eric Heitmann out of nearby Stanford University. He started his career as a left guard and actually moved into the starting lineup as a rookie, starting 12 games. He stuck at guard into the 2005 season before moving to center due to Jeremy Newberry's injury issues. Ironically enough, injury concerns led to a former guard (Baas, although his career to date wasn't quite as solid as Heitmann up to 2005) moving into Heitmann's center spot this past season.

From 2004 to 2009 Heitmann started 94 of 96 games but made no Pro Bowls and was never listed on an All-Pro squad. While Pro Bowls are not the best indicator of "greatness" I think his lack of inclusion in the Pro Bowl goes to show just how underrated he has been. I realize that as a 49ers fan I might be a little bit biased towards Heitmann. Nonetheless, I really feel Heitmann has been under-appreciated around the league. One specific game I recall was 2008 against the New York Jets. Heitmann was facing off with Pro Bowl nose tackle Kris Jenkins and I recall Heitmann controlling Jenkins for much of the game.

I think most people would view Eric Heitmann as a draft success. Even if you just view the seventh round class of the 2002 NFL Draft, Heitmann was arguably the best player of that round and really much of the last half of that entire draft.

49ers Top 10 NFL Draft Successess
5. Eric Heitmann - 2002 NFL Draft
6. Fred Beasley - 1998 NFL Draft
7. Jeremy Newberry - 1998 NFL Draft
8. Lee Woodall - 1994 NFL Draft
9. Arnaz Battle - 2003 NFL Draft
10. Andy Lee, Punter - 2004 NFL Draft


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