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The 49th overall pick: A decade-long retrospective

The 49ers own the 13th, 17th, and 49th picks of this year's NFL Draft. A couple weeks ago we took a look back at the various 13th overall picks of the last decade. This past Saturday we took a look at the various 17th overall picks of the last decade. There's nothing scientific about this because each year involved different teams with different needs. However, it's interesting to see the level of success of particular picks.

I went with 49th overall because the number of teams in the NFL changed in 2002 from 31 to 32 teams. So rather than look at the 17th pick of the round, I decided to go with the overall pick numbers. The 49ers have had the 49th overall pick three times in their history. In 1971, the team drafted running back Joe Orduna out of Nebraska. Orduna spent one season with the team and appears as though he never entered a game. In 1974, the team drafted running back Delvin Williams out of Kansas. Williams spent four seasons with the 49ers, earning 1 Pro Bowl nod. After four seasons with the 49ers, he left for the Miami Dolphins. In four seasons with the 49ers he had one 1,000 yard season, and finished with 2,966 rushing yards, 20 touchdowns, 841 receiving yards, and 5 receiving touchdowns.

Finally, and most importantly, in 1983, the 49ers used the 49th overall pick on Roger Craig, a running back out of Nebraska that finished with an ok career. In eight years with the 49ers, he managed an impressive 7,064 rushing yards and 4,442 receiving yards, while making four Pro Bowl teams and one All-Pro team.

The most interesting aspect of this is that the 49ers used all three 49th picks on running backs. Will we see the team use the 49th overall pick on a running back from our neck of the woods?

After the jump we run through the last ten #49 picks in the NFL Draft. The last couple have been fine, but it's pretty ugly for much of the decade...

2000: Dwayne Goodrich, DB, Tennessee (Dallas Cowboys) - To say things things turned out poorly for Goodrich is an understatement. Goodrich appeared in five games his rookie season, missed the 2001 season with a torn Achilles, and then appeared in 11 games (with 1 start) in 2002. However, in January of 2003, he was involved in a hit-and-run that killed two people and injured a third. He was released by the Cowboys shortly thereafter and then convicted of negligent homicide with a deadly weapon and failure to stop and render aid. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and is still in prison (although I believe eligible for parole soon). Even before going to jail, he was on his way to being labeled a bust, but I'd imagine a 12-year prison sentence ended his chances at an NFL career.

2001: LaMont Jordan, RB, Maryland (New York Jets) - Jordan was drafted to initially be a backup, and eventually be the replacement, for workhorse RB Curtis Martin. In four seasons with the Jets, Jordan never could unseat much playing time from Martin, finishing with a career-high 579 yards in 2004. The Jets let him walk in 2005 and he signed a 5 year, $27.5 million deal with the Oakland Raiders. He managed a 1,000 yard season his first year with the team, but it came on 3.8 yards a touch and he was never all that effective with the Raiders. Every time it looked like he was on his way back, he managed to succumb to injury. He spent this past season with the Denver Broncos, appearing in 9 games, and once again spending a lot of time in the training room. He was released in February, and at 31 might be on his way out of the league. Although he's lasted nine years in the NFL, I think he qualifies as a bust.

2002: Levar Fisher, LB, North Carolina State (Arizona Cardinals) - Fisher spent three years with the Cardinals, the last of which involved a season-long stay on injured reserve. The height of his NFL career was year 2, in which he started 15 games, finishing with 59 tackles and 1 sack. Continual knee problems led to his release by Arizona. He spent part of the 2005 offseason with the Saints before being cut due to his knee problems. He now works as an inspirational speaker. Definitely a bust.

2003: Eddie Moore, LB, Tennessee (Miami Dolphins) - Moore had similar injury issues throughout his brief career split between the Dolphins and Broncos. He spent parts of three different seasons on injured reserve and eventually was released by the Broncos and reached an injury settlement. That's four busts in four years (although Jordan comes the closest to being remotely successful).

2004: Keiwan Ratliff, CB, Florida (Cincinnati Bengals) - Ratliff has spent most of his career as a special-teamer, managing to stick around the league, although it hasn't exactly been a successful career. At this point he has five career interceptions, two forced fumbles, and 88 career punt returns averaging 7.1 yards per return. Not a great return man, but certainly better than Arnaz Battle! But he's been more or less a bust for a second round pick.

2005: Marcus Johnson, OG, Mississippi (Minnesota Vikings) - Johnson has stuck in the league for five years, but peaked in his second season. After starting 8 games as a rookie, Johnson started the first ten games of the 2006 season. However, injuries and ineffectiveness led to his being benched late that season. He was a backup through 2007 and 2008, before signing with the Raiders in 2009. However, he was cut during training camp, and subsequently signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Midway through last season he was arrested on a DUI charge and immediately released by the Bucs. He is currently a free agent. Add one more bust to a long list this decade.

2006: Kellen Clemens, QB, Oregon (New York Jets) - Clemens was drafted as the guy who would eventually beat out QB Chad Pennington, or replace him when the inevitable injury happened. In his rookie season, Clemens saw little playing time, as Pennington stayed healthy and led the Jets to a 10-6 record and a wild card berth. However, Pennington got nicked up in 2007 and Clemens started eight games, finishing with 1,529 yards, a 52% completion percentage and a 5/10 TD/Int ratio. Clemens had no real chance to improve in 2008 as the Jets added Brett Favre to the mix. In 2009 the team drafted Mark Sanchez and was seemingly letting Clemens battle Sanchez for the starting job. Clemens was leading the race after OTAs, but Sanchez took control in training camp and the rest, as the say, is history. Statistically Clemens is a bust, but he's been in a tough situation. If the Jets didn't add Brett Favre, Clemens likely would have been the starting quarterback in 2008. Instead, he found himself backing up Favre, and then watching his team trade up in the first round to grab Mark Sanchez. So much for Kellen Clemens.

2007: Kenny Irons, RB, Auburn (Cincinnati Bengals) - After a senior season in college filled with nagging injuries, Irons saw the injury issues carry over into the NFL. Irons managed to tear his ACL and miss his rookie season. Irons suffered a setback in his recovery due to a build-up of scar tissue, and was eventually placed on injured reserve for the 2008 season. He was subsequently waived before the season began. He is currently out of football. Unfortunately, yet another injury bust.

2008: DeSean Jackson, WR, California (Philadelphia Eagles) - Hey, what do you know, somebody who didn't bust! Up until the Jackson pick, the 49th pick last decade was pretty much a disaster area. However, as bad as all the prior picks were, Jackson has been that good. In only two years he's established himself as one of the most explosive players in the league, whether it be as a receiver or a return man. He made the Pro Bowl last season as he followed up a solid rookie season with a very impressive sophomore campaign. There were concerns about his size coming out of college, but he's been able to hold up in the NFL. I know it drives a lot of 49ers fans crazy that he's not playing across the Bay from his college. He easily led the NFL in punt return average last season, returning punts at a rate of 15.2 yards per, 2.7 yards better than Wes Welker (#2). Additionally, he finished tied for ninth in receiving yards, second in yards per catch, and tied for sixth in plays of 20+ yards. It's a shame he's not a 49er, but I'm still happy he's having a great career thus far. It's too soon to enshrine him in the Hall of Fame, but he's definitely been a homerun pick for the Eagles.

2009: Max Unger, OT, Oregon (Seattle Seahawks) - Unger only has one year under his belt, but he's already impressing folks. He won the starting right guard job in training camp, although he was eventually moved to center in December. Thus far this offseason, it sounds like Unger will move back to right guard in 2010. The Seahawks offensive line had its share of issues, and we'll see if Unger can be an anchor for the future for them. For now he's been solid.

After the mix of good and bad in the 13th and 17th picks, it's pretty amazing how bad some of the 49th overall picks have turned out over the last ten years. The pick was strongly redeemed the last two drafts, but the pick otherwise has been awful. Basically, you've got eight straight busts (some to a greater degree than others). Jackson qualifies as an absolute success, while Unger is on his way to being a solid pick.