One of the first sites I tend to check in the morning, after this one of course, is The Big Lead. I disagree with plenty of their commentary, but they entertain me and they provide enough links throughout the day to keep me amused. Originally I was a Deadspin guy and TBL was sort of on my periphery. However, as I began reading TBL more and more, I enjoyed it more than Deadspin (this also happened to coincide with the departure of Will Leitch).
The point of all that is that I recently came across one of their posts that I thought could be extrapolated over to the 49ers. The main guy at TBL, Jason McIntyre, is a self-professed Jets fan. Given the Jets run of success lately, he's had more than his fair share of posts related to the Jets. Today's Jets-related post was about debunking the myths surrounding Mark Sanchez. The post I wanted to direct you to, however, discusses how the Jets recent success can be due in large part to their success with their first two draft choices over the last four seasons.
1st Round: Mark Sanchez, QB
3rd Round: Shonn Greene, RB
1st Round: Vernon Gholston, LB
1st Round: Dustin Keller, TE
1st Round: Darrelle Revis, CB
2nd Round: David Harris, ILB
1st Round: D’Brickashaw Ferguson, OT
1st Round: Nick Mangold, C
Whatever else you want to credit for the Jets recent success, I'd have to agree with Jason that the Jets success in the draft has to account for a lot. It's fairly obvious that teams need to draft well to develop sustained success. So how have the 49ers done? We've discussed these various players in the abstract, but let's bring them all together after the jump.
1st Round: Michael Crabtree, WR
3rd Round: Glen Coffee, RB
1st Round: Kentwan Balmer, DE
2nd Round: Chilo Rachal, G
1st Round: Patrick Willis, ILB
1st Round: Joe Staley, OT
1st Round: Vernon Davis, TE
1st Round: Manny Lawson, OLB
Looking first at the Jets, depending on your feelings about Mark Sanchez, New York has arguably hit on 7 of their 8 picks. Gholston is closing in on big-time bust so that's an easy one to call a miss for now. As for Sanchez, he's certainly been solid for a rookie QB. Maybe he regresses next season, maybe not. But even if you want to say he's not a hit, that's still 6 of 8 that are strong to huge hits.
The 49ers, on the other hand, are a little tougher to call. I'd call Crabtree a hit at this point. Maybe he regresses, but I like what we've seen from the rookie. For the purposes of this season Coffee is a miss. It's too early to throw around wasted pick, but he's not there yet. Balmer isn't a hit, but also isn't a bust yet. He was slowly starting to make some plays late in the season and this coming training camp is a bit of a crossroads for him. As for Rachal, he looked like he'd be a hit his rookie season, then had a bit of a regression this past season. I think he can still turn it back around, but we'll keep him off the hit list for now. Or if he is a hit, it's a very modest one.
2007 appears to be the best top two of the past four seasons. Bamm Bamm is an all world linebacker and Staley is developing into a very solid option at left tackle. He struggled in the transition and had injury issues this season, but he's clearly a talented guy. I'm willing to say it's a hit for now, but obviously not a monster hit. In 2006, Vernon Davis has finally turned that pick into a hit after early struggles. Lawson has had his ups and downs. He finished with the best season of his career even after being benched at one point. He's got some work to do to continue his development, but I think he's going in the right direction.
This may be a bit generous, but I'd say the 49ers have had 5 "hits," with Chilo somewhere on the fence, and Balmer and Coffee being misses for now. I'm sure some might disagree, but even if you agree with my list of hits, some of the 49ers hits are not really in the realm with the Jets hits.
So what does all this mean? Simply put, the two first round picks in the 2010 draft are pretty huge for the long term future of the 49ers. I'm sure there's a collective "Duhhhhhh" racing through the crowd right about now. First round picks are always important, so I suppose I'm repeating the obvious.
However, it's still worth considering when looking at the potential long term success or failure of the Mike Singletary era. Is it possible that this draft is the cross-roads for the 49ers franchise for the rest of the Mike Singletary era, or at least the foreseeable future of said era? You nail these two picks and the team is on the road back to the playoffs and beyond. You miss on the two picks (or even one of them), and the rebuilding process lurches along.
That's a fairly simplistic view, but maybe it's the truth. I suppose the team could find their needs with later picks, or in free agency, but something about this draft just feels more important than usual. Maybe it's just the fact that the 49ers have a pair of picks with which to work. Whatever the case, the 49ers need to take care of business with those two picks.