The San Francisco 49ers will be relying on contributions from their 2011 draft class as much as anybody among the final eight playoff teams. While there was some optimism about the future of the class, plenty of folks still viewed it as a bit of a project class and graded it accordingly.
Back in early May, Mel Kiper broke down each draft class and he gave the
A's 49ers a C+ overall, with a B for hitting needs and a C for value. Now that regular season one for this class is complete, Kiper has gone back and provided a revised grade for each team. A season of hindsight has helped Mel recognize the error of his ways and given the 49ers 2011 NFL Draft class an A. What is potentially most interesting about this grade is the fact that he ignores the contributions of Bruce Miller in his write-up.
The article is Insider-protected, so head after the jump as I break down his comments a bit.
Summary: This one deserves a big jump. I said then that Aldon Smith wasn't as much of a reach at No. 7 as some thought because he had so much momentum going into the draft, but, my goodness, I don't think anybody thought he'd be this good this early. I saw him as a bit of a project -- which sounds like a shot, but I meant something closer to Jason Pierre-Paul, a major talent who could see his production pick up later in his rookie year as he learned the craft. Then he'd become a great player in his second year. Well, it's safe to say Smith's overall ability has outweighed technique questions ...
I haven't gone back into the draft threads, but when we get into the offseason and start breaking down the year that was, it would be fun to pull out some of the comments about Aldon Smith at the time he was selected. It will be anonymous so nobody feels to singled out, but it would still be interesting to see what we thought about the pick. I know a lot of people were either angered or at least moderately displeased with the pick.
Chris Culliver will become a steady starter in the secondary and is a great value in the third round. Kendall Hunter was good spelling Frank Gore and could become the No. 1 back as soon as next season. Daniel Kilgore made the roster as guard depth.
I don't understand how he references Kilgore as guard depth but completely ignores Bruce Miller. The rookie fullback has been a key part of the 49ers blocking scheme and has even done some good work catching balls out of the backfield. Aldon Smith wins 49ers rookie of the year, but Miller, Culliver and Hunter can make arguments for that number two spot.
Colin Kaepernick is obviously a wild card here, but, if Alex Smith re-signs for a number of years, Kaepernick's development becomes more of a moot point. And, after the run on quarterbacks early, at least the Niners didn't target one early only to have him sit behind Smith. Their strategy paid off. Given the progress on the field this season and the help this draft provided, the Niners deserve a big bump. Kudos to them.
This draft class is a one-year success and is looking pretty solid moving forward. However, if Kaepernick is able to develop into the 49ers long term QB answer (whenever that might be), this draft class goes from very good to obscene. It's only been one year for the current contributors, but this class is moving in the right direction with great haste.