In his press conference following the 2011 NFL Draft, Jim Harbaugh was asked about the developmental nature of the 49ers draft class and he basically stated something to the effect of all drafted players are developmental. The basic idea being that rookies come into the league trying to develop into better players. Of course, some players come into the league a little further along the development track, which brings us to some of the 49ers picks and NFL Draft grades.
As people have been putting together grades for the 49ers draft class, many have been on the more negative side in part because of the raw nature of some of these players. I've also noticed some that have given the grade a boost because of the high upside. Over at SB Nation Bay Area we've actually been putting together a rundown of 49ers NFL Draft grades. It's mostly in the Cs, but there are some higher grades as well.
I posted a poll yesterday morning asking for grades from everybody and with over 2,100 votes in, B is leading the way with 27% of the vote. B- is second with 20%, and B+ and C- are running neck and neck with 14% of the vote. Given that most of the media are giving the draft grades in the C range, I'm not all that surprised by the higher B range at Niners Nation. Folks here can be pretty critical, but I think there is enough optimism to boost the grade a bit. Feel free to head over and vote if you haven't yet.
I realize that it is impossible to assign a grade with any level of certainty a day or two after the NFL Draft. There is a reason people talk about waiting five years to fully grade a draft. This 49ers draft would seem to be a particular strong example of that, particularly at the top. The top two picks are Aldon Smith and Colin Kaepernick. Smith has a lot of upside, but also has to make the conversion from defensive end to outside linebacker. Plenty of players have done it, but it is still not a simple task. As for Kaepernick, he comes from a funky offense at Nevada and will be looking to develop under the tutelage of Jim Harbaugh.
It is entirely possible one or both of these guys breaks through as a rookie and this draft class is lauded because of that. I'm leaning a bit more on the conservative side, but who knows what the rookie class will bring. If these guys are going to fulfill their potential, how long do you expect it to take? Is it realistic to think Aldon Smith could make the change from DE to OLB his rookie year and be a pass rushing machine? Anything is possible, but how realistic is that? This is not meant in a negative fashion, but more just so people can avoid building expectations that are way too big.