The Draft, Underclassmen, and the 49ers

Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

I take a look at some problems with underclassmen declaring for the draft early and how it might affect the 49ers.

Before the most recent game, I highlighted what I thought was an excellent article by Greg A. Bedard. Well, I would like to point you all in his direction again, because he has recently written what I think is a compelling article that looks at nascent problems inherent in the new CBA agreement. Because teams have increased control over rookie wages and rookie contracts, especially players drafted in the first round, many players won't have as many shots at big, free agent contracts as players drafted before the new agreement. Bedard links to another article by Jason Cole that fleshes out the problem in more detail.

The biggest ramification, though, manifests itself in the form of underclassmen declaring for the draft in greater numbers than before. Essentially, they want to start their NFL clock early so that they have a better shot of getting to FA contracts than if they were to declare for the draft as Seniors. This large influx has the potential to dilute the league with talent that needs developed, but since the NFL is not a developmental league (for the most part) many players will fall through the cracks.

I can understand the problems the league faces. And, of course, I want both the league and the young players to be put in positions to succeed. That is good for the sport, ultimately. But, I can't help but wonder that this new problem might actually favor the 49ers. And thus, a part of me is hoping that the 49ers can capitalize on it.

If there is one team that can afford to develop players, it's the 49ers. This is the theme of the last draft, in a way, with Marcus Lattimore being the obvious indication. Moreover, and this is anecdotal evidence, so take it with a grain of salt since I haven't actually researched this, it sure seems like the 49ers are very good a drafting and developing talent in the later rounds. This might be where they find the underclassmen that might otherwise, well, fall through the picks. Finally, Trent Baalke, in his draft wizard way, has accumulated a plethora of picks. And, frankly, it looks like he can continue to do the same for the next few years. The perfect situation in which to have a zillion seventh-round picks is when so many underclassmen declare that the seventh-round might actually be full of talent.

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