Well, we've rifled through our first two rounds and now, two days removed from the 2013 affair at Radio City Music Hall, we reveal the number one best and worst 49er draft classes of the past decade. For the sake of ending on a high note, we begin the final round of our series with the worst 49ers draft of the past ten years; one that felt awful from the onset; one that made fans forever wary of the words "raw prospect"...
The 2008 San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers were coming off of a stomach-turning 2007 season (seems like almost every "Worst" entry starts off this way, doesn't it?) and needed help in many areas. Mike Nolan was somehow retained as head coach despite three awful seasons, Jim Hostler was relieved of his duties as offensive coordinator, and Mike Martz brought his purported high-flying, minimum-protection offense to the Bay Area. The inherent issue with that notion was that the 49ers boasted names like Alex Smith, Shaun Hill, and J.T. O'Sullivan at quarterback; not Kurt Warner. Sure, Isaac Bruce was brought on board, but he was in the twilight of his career and nothing more than a decent possession receiver at that point.
Nevertheless, the 49ers marched onward to the draft, in hopes of snapping a five-year playoff drought; and that's when things went from bad...to worse...
Round 1, pick 29: Kentwan Balmer - Defensive Tackle, North Carolina
Round 2, pick 8: Chilo Rachal - Guard, USC
Round 3, pick 12: Reggie Smith - Safety, Oklahoma
Round 4, pick 8: Cody Wallace - Center, Texas A&M
Round 6, pick 8: Josh Morgan - Wide Receiver, Virginia Tech
Round 7, pick 7: Larry Grant - Linebacker, Ohio State
You can stop booing the computer screen and throwing inanimate objects now. This is a draft you
wouldn't would only wish on your worst division rival. A putrid turn of events if there ever was one and it showed up on the field, as the Niners fired Mike Nolan in October en route to a 7-9 season.
Balmer and Rachal are names that live on in infamy among the 49ers Faithful. Balmer only lasted two seasons and never recorded much playing time at all, let alone a single start. Rachal inexplicably stuck around for four seasons and started at right guard for almost two full seasons under Singletary in '09 and '10. He was demoted to second string in 2011 and finally released in 2012. Reggie Smith and Josh Morgan were players who showed some promise but never panned out. Smith started only seven games in his four year stint with San Francisco, and Josh Morgan embodies the words "slow-footed" and "subpar". Cody Wallace is barely worth mentioning. He was inactive for his entire rookie season, played minimally during one game in 2009, and was released before the 2010 season began.
Seventh round selection, Larry Grant, was signed away from the Niners practice squad by the St. Louis Rams at the conclusion of the 2008 season. He started several games in 2010 at weakside linebacker, but was replaced toward the end of the season. He re-signed with San Francisco prior the 2011 season and filled in admirably for Patrick Willis during a few games that year. A solid backup and special teams player, Grant was recently suspended for four games in 2013 due to PED use.
What went wrong
Everything. Balmer was a huge reach and gamble on the 49ers part; one that did not work out whatsoever. Sure, he had great size at 6'5 and 317 lbs., but his stat lines coming out of North Carolina were terrible. His senior year was the only one in which he started the entire season. During that season, he compiled 3.5 sacks and was second on the team with 59 tackles. Does that sound like first round material to you? Analysts spoke of potential, but questioned whether his (in my opinion) unspectacular senior campaign was an emergence or an anomaly. His draft profile listed several weakness which included lack of urgency, poor leverage, weak lower body strength, and giving up on battles too early. All of these concerns came to fruition in the NFL. Couple a poor skill set with two bizarre disappearances (one in 2010 with San Francisco and a more recent absence with Washington last season) and you've got a classic first-round-bust (and a headcase at that).
Chilo Rachal? In short, he couldn't block a friend on Facebook if he wanted to. The most benefit the 49ers reaped from Chilo Rachal was when he lined up against them in a Bears uniform last season and gave Aldon/Justin Smith carte blanche to pummel Jason Campbell. As mentioned earlier, Josh Morgan and Reggie Smith just never developed into solid contributors. Morgan looked very promising in his rookie season, but never progressed beyond that. Although he started for a significant amount of games, he played extremely slow (remember this?), and failed to gain consistent separation. Cody Wallace, meanwhile, was a non factor during his limited time with the team.
In summation, this draft only yielded two inferior starters in Morgan and Rachal (both of whom are no longer with the team) and a solid back up in Grant. That's a terrible crop; all the more so when you consider how desperately the 49ers needed to cash in on that draft.
Worst individual pick
Balmer, hands down. Hell, he ranks up there with Jim Druckenmiller and Rashaun Woods as one of the all-time worst picks this franchise has made. Maybe it was just me, but for some reason you knew from the minute that name was announced that it was going to be a historically horrific selection. Analysts and fans alike were perplexed, and remain so to this day. The follow-up pick of Rachal doesn't hold up well either, but that was way less of a stretch than the Balmer selection at the time.
Five down, one to go. Which 49ers draft class will be named "best of the decade"? Stay tuned and find out!