The first two segments in this series focused on the history of where the 49ers will be selecting in the 1st and 2nd round during the upcoming drafts. There were mixed results. Obviously, the 7th pick represented a lot of nice value, and some hall-of-fame caliber players. However, the 2nd round wasn't as friendly. Only 20 percent of the players selected at the 49ers slot can be considered impact players.
Today, I will focus on the 3rd round in general, and the 76th pick specifically. You are not going to find many impact players at that slot, but you will be surprised to see how many impact players have been drafted in the 3rd round since the 2005 draft.
Note: The New York Giants selected Chad Jones, a safety from LSU, with the 76th pick in the 2010 draft. Jones ended up getting in a car accident in the days following the draft and never suited up for the Giants. While obtaining serious and life threatening injuries, his long term prognosis is good. That said, it remains to be seen if he will ever play another football game.
1994: G/C- Rich Braham, Arizona Cardinals: Braham never played a game for the Arizona Cardinals, he was released prior to his rookie season. Originally drafted as a guard, Braham played that position for the first four seasons of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals before moving to center. Braham's career started out rough, but he found his grove playing in the middle of the offensive line. Braham started 142 games in his extended 13 year career, starting 15 or more games a total of seven times. He was a sign of stability for many seasons with Cincinnati, playing his entire career there.
1998: RB- Ahmad Green, Seattle Seahawks: Ahmad Green never really got a chance to shine for the Seahawks. In his two seasons with Seattle, Green rushed for a total of 329 yards, but did average over 5 yards per rush. Following the 1999 season Green was traded to the Green Bay Packers, where he immediately became an impact player alongside Brett Favre. In seven seasons with the Packers, Green rushed for a 1000 yards six times, including five consecutive seasons from 2000-2004. From 2001-2004, Ahman Green made the Pro Bowl and led all NFL running backs in combined scrimmage yards. In addition to his 9200 yards rushing, Green 378 passes. He retired following the 2009 season. One of the most productive 3rd round picks in recent memory.
2001: DT- Ron Edwards, Buffalo Bills: Edwards started out slow in his NFL Career, but has come through strong as of late. He only started 21 games during his first five seasons. Since, Edwards has stepped it up to become one of the most consistent interior linemen in the NFL. He won't get the flashy stats, but it stout against the run. He has been a mainstay on the Chiefs defensive line over the last five seasons, starting a total of 60 games.
1992: G- Brian Bollinger, San Francisco 49ers: It is hard to exactly call any 3rd round pick a bust, but in coming to the conclusion to put Bollinger here I had to equate a couple things. First, guards are rarely drafted in the 1st round, so some of the best at that position in the NFL were mid-late round picks. Secondly, when drafting a guard in the first 3 rounds you expect him to end up becoming a starter. Well, this did not happen for Brian Bollinger. In three seasons with the 49ers he did not start a single game, barely played on the offense; and, was relegated to the special teams.
1995: CB- Marlon Kerner, Buffalo Bills: A lot was expected out of Kerner coming out of Ohio State. His stock was relatively high in the months leading up to the draft, but a bad combine performance dropped him to the 3rd round. Eventually, the Bills picked him up; but Kerner never panned out. Kerner only played four seasons in the NFL, all with Buffalo, starting seven games and intercepting only three passes.
1996: S- Ryan Stewart, Detroit Lions: Stewart started a total of two games, both in his rookie season, during a five year career with the Lions. In addition to making a total of 22 tackles, Stewart had on the field issues with the Lions coaching staff and was released following the 2000 season.
2004: CB- Derrick Strait, New York Jets: Strait's stock fell a great deal in the weeks leading up to the 2004 draft. Critics said that he was too slow, couldn't cover a fleet footed receiver and had issues with mechanics. Others argued that he was just a bit raw, and would turn into a stud. A couple months before the draft Strait was considered a top 20 picks; he ended up falling to the Jets in the 3rd round. Well, the skeptics proved to be right on this issue. In his short lived three year NFL career, Strait started a total of 5 games and never intercepted a pass. In fact, Strait had the distinction of playing for 4 different teams during his final season in 2006; not what you are looking for with a 3rd round pick.
2006: LB- Anthony Schlegel: One of the best linebackers to play at Ohio State over the last decade, Schlegel seemed to translate well to the NFL. He wasn't the fasted and most athletically gifted player, however, he was strong and played with passion. Front offices paid more attention to the former, and Schlegel fell to the 3rd round. However, the fall ended up being justified. Schlegel ended up playing only two seasons in the NFL, one for the Jets. Additionally, he combined for a total of 34 tackles and didn't record a QB sack.
Standout 3rd round picks since the 2005 NFL Draft
2007: WR- James Jones (Green Bay Packers), DE- Charles Johnson (Carolina Panthers), DT- Brandon Mebane (Seattle Seahawks), LB- Stewart Bradley (Philadelphia Eagles), DE- Ray McDonald (San Francisco 49ers)
2008: S- Charles Godfrey (Carolina Panthers), RB- Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs), WR- Early Doucet (Arizona Cardinals), TE- Jermichael Finley (Green Bay Packers), DE- Cliff Avril (Detroit Lions), WR- Mario Manningham (New York Giants), S- Thomas DeCoud (Atlanta Falcons),
2010: OL- Jared Veldheer (Oakland Raiders), S- Morgan Burnett (Green Bay Packers), WR- Brandon LaFell (Carolina Panthers), C- J.D. Walton (Denver Broncos), WR- Emmanuel Sanders (Pittsburgh Steelers), WR- Jordan Shipley (Cincinnati Bengals), LB- NaVorro Bowman (San Francisco 49ers), TE- Tony Moeaki (Kansas City Chiefs), TE- Jimmy Graham (New Orleans Saints)
The further I go down on the draft list, the less impact players I am going to find. This is obvious because the players with the most talent will be drafted well before the 3rd round. That said, it is possible to find an all-pro performer in this round. The 76th pick hasn't quite been team-friendly over the last 20 seasons, but the larger 3rd round picture has. The above list represents this factor. I don't think that it is a coincidence that the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl last season and have three players on this list; James Jones, Jermichael Finley and Morgan Burnett. While two of these players really didn't contribute to their 2010 championship run, they represent the broader understanding that teams who find impact players later in the draft are the teams that contend on a regular basis. Our San Francisco 49ers were a prime example of this during their run in the 80s and 90s. Today, the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers are great examples. Additionally, the last four draft have been incredibly team-friendly in the 3rd round. You are looking at the possibility of at least 12 all-pro performers in this round during that span. So, just because the 76th pick has not garnered many good players in recent drafts, this doesn't mean the 49ers will not find an impact player there in 2011.