Fooch's Note: This is easily the longest post I've ever put together, so settle in for the ugliness. If you feel like life has been treating you too well, like things can't get any better, this will bring you back to earth.
The season is officially over for the 49ers and we'll be along with plenty of season review posts. At the same time, now that the decade is coming to a close, all-decade this and that is all the rage. Given that the 49ers face another non-playoff season, January has plenty of open space for posting. Accordingly, I thought I'd take a look at the decade that was for the San Francisco 49ers. We've got plenty of things to look at from the past decade, but I thought I'd start with some of the most abysmal: the biggest draft disappointments of the decade. We could call them busts, but I think disappointment covers more territory, particularly if a player didn't have huge expectations to begin with. We'll be back with the more positive best draft choices of the decade on Wednesday.
The 49ers selected 88 players over the course of the decade, so there will likely be plenty of disagreement in some of the selections and the order. Feel free to agree or disagree all you want. I'll start with some honorable mentions and then go through my top five after the jump. We've factored in draft position and production. After each of the top five I listed other players who could have been drafted with that pick. If the pick was in the early rounds I'm not going to say they could have picked some 6th or 7th round pick that turned into a stud (such as Brady in 2000). Rather, I'd prefer to look at players at the same position they reasonably could have taken with that pick. For most of these there aren't a ton of options so I've mixed in some additional players drafted around them. I didn't think we could make an accurate assessment of the 2008 and 2009 draft classes, but if you can argue for including any of those players, feel free to. For a list of all 49ers draft picks, head over to nfl.com.
QB Alex Smith, 2005, 1st round: This is one reason I went with "disappointment" over "bust." When there is as much disagreement over a player as there has been over Smith, one could reasonably argue the player has "disappointed." When you're the #1 overall pick of the draft, no matter the circumstances, you've disappointed in some regard. I (and many others) think Alex Smith can still turn it around, but for the purposes of the "aughts," Smith has disappointed.
CB Ahmed Plummer, 2000, 1st round: Plummer is an honorable mention because of "what could've been." Plummer blew up his second season for 7 interceptions and looked to be the 49ers #1 corner for a long time. At the end of the 2005 season, Plummer had played 9 games in two years and was released the following February because of cap considerations, but more importantly, because the 49ers had lost faith in him. He retired in June of that year. I had a tough time not including him on the top five. I held him out more because I was a really big fan of him. He got personal consideration that kept him off the top five.
G David Baas, 2005, 2nd round: Baas hasn't been awful, but considering he was the first pick of the second round, I think the team expected more from him. He started five games his rookie season, zero his second season, eight his third season and nine his fourth season. He's started every game in this his fifth season, but is up for free agency and has a good chance of not being brought back. Part of that depends on the CBA, as if there is no CBA he becomes a restricted free agent. However, even as a RFA the 49ers will not be looking to give him too much money.
WR Brandon Williams, 2006, 3rd round: Really Williams should be listed here as KR/PR because he never touched the ball as a receiver. Williams was never considered a great wide receiver coming out of college, and Scouts Inc seemed to think he could turn into a decent #3 receiver. Well, he has yet to make a reception in his NFL career. He was signed by the Steelers this past offseason but appears to have been cut at some point.
LB Saleem Rasheed, 2002, 3rd round: When you're part of the same draft class that produces Eric Heitmann in the seventh round, it's a lot easier to be viewed as a disappointment when you're a third round linebacker. Rasheed finished ninth all-time in tackles at Alabama but could not become any kind of playmaker in the NFL. He finished with 38 tackles,1 sack and 2 forced fumbles in four seasons with the 49ers, before ending up in the CFL.
RB Kevan Barlow, 2001, 3rd round: One of the more disliked 49ers of the recent past, Barlow actually started off on the right path. His first three seasons he was involved in a time-share with Garrison Hearst and increased his yards and yards per carry each year. The team cut loose Garrison Hearst after the 2003 season and Barlow saw his yards and yards per carry decrease the next two years before being cut loose by the 49ers, having been replace d by Frank Gore.
Check out the worst of the worst after the jump and buckle in for a bumpy ride...
5. K Jeff Chandler, Florida, 2002, 4th round, 102nd overall
I suppose there were better choices than a kicker (putting us in company with our Jets blog). However, Jeff Chandler ended up simply being a frustrating player for the 49ers. Chandler left Florida as the all-team leading scorer (a spot he still holds even after Tim Tebow took a wrecking ball to the record books). He had the most career field goals attempted and made, along with the second highest field goal percentage in Gator history. Prior to being drafted, Chandler was a 2nd team All-American (1999), honorable mention (2000), twice 1st team All-SEC and once second team. Throw in a two-time semifinalist for the Lou Groza award in 1999 and 2000 (kicker of the year) and one-time team MVP and you've got one heck of a kicker. Here's a scouting report I found through 49ers Paradise:
Recognizing an immediate need at kicker, the 49ers selected Jeff Chandler. Chandler brings to the team a ton of leg strength. He's among the top kickers in the draft. The 49ers have not drafted a kicker in an extremely long time. Chandler will step in to challe[n]ge Jose Cortez and Jamie Rheem for the starting place kicking spot.
It's very surprising to see the 49ers a[d]dress a special teams area in the draft, particularly at such an early pick. There was no hesitation though, so Chandler was obviously the man of choice for the team. However the team did say they would go with the best player available when they draft, and if Chandler wins the starting spot -and for that matter, a roster spot, he will help the 49ers special team immens[el]y and may even win some close games for the team.
Unfortunately, Chandler never panned out. Chandler didn't even last two full seasons before being cut and replaced by Owen Pochman. Chandler was initially signed to a 3-year deal in 2002 and made his debut week 12 against the Eagles. His rookie season (2002) saw him go 8 of 12 on field goal attempts, with a long of 47. In his second season, he was 6 of 7 on field goal attempts but was still cut after only the second week of the season. According to the article linked above, he was cut more because of his problems with consistency on kickoffs. Either way, he was out the door, replaced by Owen Pochman, who was later replaced by Todd Peterson, who was later replaced by Joe Nedney.
Chandler bounced around the league after leaving the 49ers, getting playing time with the Redskins and Panthers in 2004, and getting cut in training camp by the Redskins in 2005 and the Browns in 2006. I did some poking around and in 2007 he was working as a caddie on the Nationwide Golf Tour while trying to figure out what to do next. No word on what he ever figured out.
Who they could have drafted: Another kicker (Travis Dorsch) went 7 picks later and actually had a worse career than Chandler. The better option in this case was just about anybody other than a kicker. Some picks that came that round after the 49ers picked include DE Alex Brown 2 picks later and LB David Thornton four picks later.
4. CB Mike Rumph, 2002, Miami, 1st round, 27th overall
2002 certainly wasn't a great draft year for the 49ers (aside from Eric Heitmann in the 7th round). At the time of the 2002 draft, the 49ers had seen two seasons of Ahmed Plummer and Jason Webster. The two of them had combined for 10 interceptions in their second year in the NFL and seemed on their way to providing a solid 1-2 punch for the 49ers. The Greatest Show on Turf was due for a free fall, but before that happened, the 49ers wanted to add depth at cornerback to battle the many wide receivers they would have to deal with around the division and the league.
Rumph had a quiet career in college and while he was on some great Miami teams, he never really jumped as "the man" type of player on those teams. Rumph's second year with the 49ers was arguably the best of his career. He finished with 62 tackles, 3 interceptions, 7 pass deflections and 2 sacks. Injuries derailed his career as he never played even half a season, let alone a complete season, after that. Rumph announced his retirement in July 2008.
I checked out 49ers Paradise's comments on Rumph and they actually sound rather familiar:
Mike Rumph is probably the second most fundamentally sound corner in this season's draft. He has a great understanding of the game, and is an incredible athlete. Rumph will have little adjustment to make as he enters the NFL and likely will become an every down player early in the season if not on opening day. Rumph is an impact player who would be an immediate help, but he does seem to be playing on top of his game and there isn't likely to be much improvement seen from him. There is very little gambling here, what you see is what you get, and Rumph is a good one- he just isn't likely to improve greatly at the next level.
Mike Rumph brings the 49ers a solid third cornerback. Rumph will step in immiediately either as the nickel back or opposite Ahmed Plummer. With Rumph the 49ers now have three cornerbacks that should allow them to match up with any team - even St. Louis when it comes to receivers. Rumph is a solid corner, a coaches dream and a typical "character guy" for the 49ers.
Who they could have drafted: There were some good to great defensive backs selected in this draft, but most came before the 49ers took Mike Rumph. This included corners like Quentin Jammer, Phillip Buchanon and Lito Sheppard (the spot before the 49ers), and then safeties like Roy Williams and Ed Reed. The second round saw CBs Sheldon Brown and Travis Fisher, and S Michael Lewis go, but not a lot else. All in all, a fairly weak year for defensive backs after the first two rounds.
3. OT Kwame Harris, Stanford, 2003, 1st round, 26th overall
If only we still had the holding video to celebrate the awesomeness that was Kwame. I did a google search and I managed to come across the audio but no video from that classic. Feel free to just imagine it as you're listening.
Coming out of Stanford, the scouts seemed to like Kwame Harris:
A lot of physical tools to work with and fundamentally sound but needs more reps and time to learn the position. A very high pick in the near future the best Cardinal lineman since Bob Whitfield.
Mel Kiper, who has certainly had his shares of hits and misses, was actually rather close to the mark:
Harris is physically gifted but inconsistent. He dominated in some games last season, but at other times looked mediocre against players he should have dominated. Harris needs to get stronger and more motivated, and this is a roll-of-the-dice pick. The 49ers are taking a chance on an underachiever who could be a Pro Bowler or a bust.
Although I was not "down" on the pick, I certainly became a bit hesitant when I found out about Kwame's artistic tendencies. While I have no problem with a player being arenaissance man, when it comes to offensive linemen, I tend to fall into the John Madden stereotypes. I want a guy who has no problems getting rough and punching defenders in the mouth. I want a guy with a mean streak. It just never seemed like Kwame had that mean streak. I don't know him personally so I could be wrong, but he just never seemed to fit the mold of offensive linemen.
Some may wonder why Kwame is listed as the #3 bust and not higher up. Harris was one of the more high profile disappointments for the 49ers, but he was still a solid enough run blocker. He couldn't pass block to save his life, but in the run game he did manage to bring something to the table. Since being released by the Raiders last February, Harris does not appear to have latched on anywhere else. However, he certainly had a better career than the next two jokers.
Who they could have drafted: Jon Stinchcomb - Stinchcomb went 11 picks later and is in his seventh season with the Saints. He could quit right now and he would have been a better pick than Kwame.
2. QB Giovanni Carmazzi, 2000, Hofstra, 3rd round, 65th overall
Giovanni Carmazzi is a guy I will always remember, primarily due to his unique name. I even remember where I was when he was drafted. I was in college in Washington, DC and was working at the ESPNZone in downtown DC on draft day. I know I wasn't the only one who quickly talked himself into Gio Carmazzi as the future of the 49ers. When you're selling yourself on a football player named Gio, it's not going to end well. The 49ers were coming off an abysmal 1999 season that saw Steve Young's career end. Jeff Garcia wasn't awful in replacing Young, but I don't think many of us saw what would happen in the next couple of seasons. Accordingly, the team needed their QB of the future.
Carmazzi was a California native who started his college career with the now-defunct Pacific University football team. Carmazzi transferred to Hofstra and as a member of the flying Dutchmen Carmazzi put up 9,920 yards and 71 touchdowns. Throw in 6'2, 219 lbs and he quickly moved up draft boards. CNNSI had this scouting report on Carmazzi:
Transfer from Pacific. Division 1-AA standout in a short passing game offense. Sturdy. Intelligent. Good athlete. Has a strong arm. Average in his setup quickness. Not nifty to avoid but is a strong runner who can get yardage once he gets outside the pocket. Has an over-the-top delivery with good wrist action. Can throw tight spirals -- loses some effectiveness when throwing from non-set positions. Shows touch, but can be hesitant and late with his passes. Is inconsistent with his overall accuracy. Rough around the edges but has good tools.
One thing they failed to mention was that he came from a run-n-shoot offensive philosophy at Hofstra, which has proven to not translate all that well into the NFL. Recently the same stigma has attached to quarterbacks in spread style offenses. Carmazzi owned most of the major passing records at Hofstra, but it just wasn't enough to convert over to the NFL. Carmazzi never even stepped on the field as a 49er. He got playing time in NFL Europe and in the CFL, but was about as useless as could be for the 49ers. Interestingly enough, that same draft the 49ers selected Tim Rattay out of Louisiana Tech in the seventh round and he was the one who stuck around and was actually quite serviceable, before giving way to Alex Smith in 2005.
Oh, and this guy went in the sixth round that year.
Who they could have drafted: Chris Redman - Redman went 10 picks later, and while he really hasn't done much in his NFL career (12 career starts), he's been a serviceable backup option, getting a couple starts this year in place of an injured Matt Ryan. When Chris Redman was a better option with the pick, you know you chose poorly; Marc Bulger - This is sort of cheating because Bulger went in the sixth round. However, this Sporting News article would have you believe a couple weeks before the draft, some folks thought Bulger would go ahead of Carmazzi. It didn't happen, but it certainly wouldn't have been a horrible choice considering Bulger held 30 team records when he left West Virginia.
1. WR Rashaun Woods, 2004, Oklahoma State, 1st round, 31st overall
If my team drafted a wide receiver who was 6'2, 202 lbs and ran a 4.5 40, I think I'd be pretty psyched. How about if that same receiver finished his career as his school's record-holder in career 100-yard receiving games (20), career receptions (216), Receiving Yards (4,414), Receiving TDs (42), single season receptions (107), 3 of the top 4 single season receptions spots, and single season receiving yards (1,695)? Yea I'd be rather impressed with that. Maybe not a can't miss receiver, but certainly a very solid option.
That's what the 49ers had when they traded down to eventually draft WR Rashaun Woods out of Oklahoma State. His speed wasn't off the chart, but that didn't keep people from expecting solid returns immediately:
Mel Kiper: Woods is a polished, solid receiver who could start as a rookie
Scout's Inc: The 49ers gambled a little bit early on, and it paid off. By moving down twice in the first round, they were able to acquire several extra picks while still getting a quality first-round receiver in Rashaun Woods. There were lots of questions about Woods' speed until he ran in the low 4.5s at his Pro Day. Woods should be a starter from Day 1, and he will line up opposite second-year pro Brandon Lloyd. Woods has the potential to develop into a solid starter, but he is not going to be a premier No. 1 like Fitzgerald, Roy and Reggie Williams, who were all taken in the top-10.
SI.com: An ultra-productive receiver the past three seasons, Woods is a natural football player who competes to win and works to get better. A pressure player that comes through in the clutch against top competition, he may be downgraded because of only average size-speed numbers but should immediately produce as an NFL rookie.
So people recognized he had his limitations, but given his performance and production in college, they figured he would be a very solid contributor for the 49ers. Yea, not so much. In his rookie season with the 49ers, Woods had 7 receptions for 160 yards and 1 touchdown. Woods tore ligaments in his thumb and spent 2005 on injured reserve. He was traded the next spring to the San Diego Chargers for Sammy Davis. The Chargers cut Woods that August, claimed off waivers and then cut by the Broncos, spent some time in NFL Europe, and wrapped things up with a bow in 2007.
So what caused such a productive college wide receiver to flame out so spectacularly? Scout.com had an interesting article discussing Woods. According to Craig Massei:
[T]he reality is, Woods was soft. He was a man among boys at Oklahoma State, where he could glide past inferior opponents with his size, skill and pure talent. To this day, observers still come by this web site asking when they will see the dude who demolished Big 12 receiving records during an All-American career that included 293 receptions for 4,414 yards and 42 touchdowns – seven of those TD receptions coming in one game. But when Woods got to the NFL, he became a man among men who could match him in physical ability. And he simply had no concept of how to handle the situation. Most college stars adjust. Woods – until the moment he was put on San Francisco’s injured reserve list last September, ending his 2005 season before it ever got started – was overwhelmed by the situation and failed to grasp the urgency and commitment of what it takes to make it in the NFL. San Francisco coaches could try to teach him how to be a pro and a better receiver, but they couldn’t make him find that little something extra that it takes at this level. Woods had to get that on his own. And he never got it during the unfulfilled 102 weeks he spent as a 49er.
Who they could have drafted: The first round of the 2004 draft was pretty wild for the 49ers. The 49ers went into draft day with the 16th pick. They then traded that pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for the 28th overall pick and pick #26 in the second round. They then traded pick #28 to the Carolina Panthers for the 31st overall pick and pick #31 of the 4th round. So first, what did all that dealing net them? Woods, CB Shawntae Spencer and LB Richard Seigler. So the who could they have drafted comes in 3 steps.
Make the two trades: If the 49ers were dead-set on a wide receiver at the 31st pick, there really weren't any other options to jump on right there. The next wide receiver to go was Devery Henderson 19 picks later. So instead, they could have grabbed OLB Karlos Dansby (2 picks later), G Chris Snee (3 picks later), or DE Igor Olshansky (4 picks later), among many others.
Make only the Eagles trade: The team gets to keep Shawntae Spencer (taken with the Ealges second round pick) and can select Michael Jenkins instead of Woods. I don't think the 49ers were particularly high on Jenkins, but he's still in the NFL and has been infinitely more productive than Woods. The 49ers had cut Garrison Hearst and were happy with Kevan Barlow going forward, so the 49ers were clearly not going to draft Kevin Jones (#29). Jones has had a lot of injury issues, but still, infinitely more productive than Rashaun Woods. Thank you Terry Donahue. Thank you very much. Do we even need a post on worst 49ers executive of the decade?
Make neither trade: This is the one people still like to talk about. If the 49ers had sat at 16, they would have had no additional wide receivers from which to choose. However, they could have had Steven Jackson. Of course, given the above info, the team was intent on going with Kevan Barlow here. Barlow was coming off a 1,024 yard season (5.1 ypc) while splitting carries with Garrison Hearst. I suppose one can see how a GM might become enamored by that and wanna stick with him. Of course, what isn't mentioned is the fact that Barlow was disliked on the team. At one point Fred Beasley got in a fight and punched him. And not a horsing around or practice fight. Beasley did not like him one bit. Of course, even without taking Jackson, the 49ers still could have snagged a guy like OT Shawn Andrews (#16 - injury issues but still better), DE Will Smith (#18), or OT Vernon Carey (#19), among many others. All better options than Rashaun Woods.
A few footballs and a kicking tee would have been more useful than Rashaun Woods.