Thursday afternoon, David Neumann took a look at the San Francisco 49ers 2012 NFL Draft as part of his re-draft series. I was recently contacted by The Football Girl to submit a name for the worst first round pick in San Francisco 49ers history. There is only so much I can say about the team's picks before the Bill Walsh era. And so, I stuck with the last 35 years of 49ers history. And in doing so, I decided that it had to be A.J. Jenkins.
In making my choice, I narrowed the list down to Jim Druckenmiller, Reggie McGrew, Rashaun Woods, Kentwan Balmer and A.J.Jenkins. You could make arguments for most of that group, but I found myself narrowing it down to Woods and Jenkins. Others will disagree, but those were two that really stuck out to me.
The next step was narrowing it down between those two. And this got me thinking as to what constitutes a bad decision by the 49ers. It is easy to say both were awful in retrospect. In considering these as bad decisions however, I think we have to try and factor in what was going on at the time.
When the 49ers drafted Rashaun Woods, it was not really a bad pick on draft day. I googled 2004 NFL Draft grades, and people generally thought the pick made sense. Woods was a big bodied receiver who had done big things at Oklahoma State. You could nit-pick, but at the time, it just was not an awful looking pick.
On the other hand, when the 49ers drafted A.J. Jenkins, there was a bit of WTF about it. Some were willing to give Trent Baalke the benefit of the doubt (myself included), but it was a puzzling pick. As David Neumann pointed out, Jenkins was rated fairly low, at least compared to other receivers taken anywhere around Jenkins. Baalke had the guy he liked, but nobody is overly shocked it did not work out.
In considering which pick was worse, it seems like we'd have to go with Jenkins over Woods. A lot of drafting is about process over results. Some sure-fire starters are going to flame out, and UDFAs are going to come out of nowhere to become great players. The best a team can do is develop its process and draft accordingly.
Baalke's process has had some notable misses, but it has also had some big time hits. I don't know if he strayed from it in 2012, or what exactly, but the A.J. Jenkins pick went down in flames. Rashaun Woods was a serious bust as well, but again, it seems like it was hard to doubt the pick at the time. In my mind, that makes the Jenkins pick worse over history.