We storm into Round 2 of the 49ers' best and worst drafts of the past decade. For the most part, you guys have been on board with my selections of third best and third worst. Let's see if that trend continues. Today's segment takes us back to the beginning of the end, the fall of the empire...
The 2003 San Francisco 49ers
This draft took place during the genesis of a new era in 49ers football, a cringe-worthy era as hindsight would later prove. Despite seeing the 49ers through the second-biggest comeback in playoff history against the NY Giants, and leading the team to an NFC Divisional matchup against the Bucs, Steve Mariucci was unceremoniously dismissed as 49ers head coach in the 2003 offseason. In an even more dubious turn of events, the 49ers annointed Dennis Erickson as head coach. Erickson was the head coach of Oregon State at the time and enjoyed some decent success at the college level, however, his prior stint in the NFL was supremely lackluster. In four seasons with the Seahawks, Erickson failed to notch a record above .500 and never made the playoffs. Walsh, Seifert, Mariucci... Erickson? It just didn't add up. Still, the 49ers had Jeff Garcia, Terrell Owens, and the venerable Garrison Hearst in their stable, so maybe they could get by on that talent alone.
Round 1, Pick 26: Kwame Harris - Offensive Tackle, Stanford
Round 2, Pick 25: Anthony Adams - Defensive Tackle, Penn state
Round 3, Pick 25: Andrew Williams - Defensive End, Miami (FL)
Round 4, Pick 27: Brandon Lloyd - Wide Reciever, Illinois
Round 5, Pick 26: Aaron Walker - Tight End, Florida
Round 6, Pick 24: Arnaz Battle - Wide Reciever, Notre Dame
Round 7, Pick 27: Ken Dorsey - Quarterback, Miami (FL)
This draft yielded zero returns in 2003 and very, very minimal ones down the road. The Niners finished with a 7-9 record in '03 and no rookies were named starters. Kwame Harris is on the list of all-time 49er busts. Anthony Adams was underwhelming at best. Andrew Williams and Aaron Walker were complete non-factors during their careers. Arnaz Battle managed to stick around for a fairly long time during the dark ages of 49er football, despite being an utterly average player (which speaks volumes as to why the 49ers were so bad). Ken Dorsey, another face from the Niners' "Age of Embarrassment", was painfully inept under center. Brandon Lloyd, the lone success story from this draft, was mediocre during his time in the red and gold. As a Niner, he's most remembered for infrequent circus-catches (his most spectacular being negated by a penalty) and for inexcusably ducking away from a pass across the middle (see below). It wasn't until a few stops after San Francisco that Lloyd finally emerged, leading the league in receiving as a Bronco during his eighth season.
What went wrong: What went right? This was a pretty awful draft through and through. Harris' name would become synonymous with the words "false start". Forget not living up to a first round billing, Harris was bad by high school football standards. Furthermore, he didn't even start until his third year in the league. Once he did, it was clear why he hadn't seen the field sooner. Anthony Adams had an OK career with the 49ers and Bears, but nothing that would garner a second round selection. He started 34 games and tallied six sacks during his four seasons with the Niners - his most notable in 2005, where he started all 16 games as an undersized nose tackle. Andrew Williams was another swing and miss for the 49ers during this draft. He only lasted two seasons in the league, playing in nine games (three as starter) and registering 10 tackles.
Brandon Lloyd stands as the best pick of this draft but, again, his time in San Francisco was middle of the road. He lacked consistency and physicality, which is why the Niners sent him packing after three seasons. Aaron Walker started a handful of games in 2003 and 2004, but I doubt anyone even remembers that. Battle was actually decent value as a sixth rounder and played with the team for seven seasons. But he should have never been afforded a place in the starting lineup, let alone play as a starter for 2 1/2 seasons. Another player unfit for the starting spotlight, Ken Dorsey, was selected in the seventh round and performed atrociously when called upon in 2004 and 2005. He managed only two wins in ten starts with the Niners, one in which he threw only seven completions for 40 yards and zero touchdowns in a field-goal-fest 15-10 victory against the Bucs.
Worst individual pick:
Kwame Harris. In what seems to be the running theme here, the 49ers biggest error was selecting a dud in the first round. Up until his recent public altercation with a former boyfriend in a restaurant, Harris' reputation was tied to a terrible NFL career in which he was called for an innumerable amount of penalties. I even recall an internet message board thread titled something along the lines of "Things that block better than Kwame Harris." If he wasn't being flagged for false starts or holding, he was whiffing on blocks and getting pushed backwards by opposing defensive linemen. Amazingly, Harris managed to stay on the team for 5 seasons which, again, goes to show how lowly the 49ers were at that point in time.
So there you have it, the runner up for worst 49ers draft of the past decade. Next, we'll reveal the runner up for best 49ers draft. Stay tuned!
Note: I've excluded the poll from this entry because, as some have commented, it's difficult to gauge whether the rankings are accurate until all the teams have been revealed. Polls will be included upon revealing the no. 1 best and worst drafts of the decade.