The 2016 NFL Draft is a little over two months away, which means we will start assessing what it all means basically one day later. In reality, we have to wait several years to get a firm grasp on a given draft class. We've seen some classes start strong and finish with a bit of a whimper, and others start slow and turn out great later.
Pro Football Focus recently put together a look back at the 2010 NFL Draft. They used their grading system to rank out the highest graded classes. The grades appear to be based entirely on their performance with the team that drafted them.
The 49ers ended up ranking fourth. The top three included the New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, and Pittsburgh Steelers. Here is the 49ers draft class that year:
1 (11). Anthony Davis, OT
1 (17). Mike Iupati, OG
2 (49). Taylor Mays, SS
3 (91). NaVorro Bowman, ILB
6 (173). Anthony Dixon, RB
6 (182). Nate Byham, TE
6 (206). Kyle Williams, WR
7 (224). Phillip Adams, DB
Here is what PFF had to say about the 49ers' best and worst picks from the draft.
Best pick: LB Navarro Bowman (round 3, pick 91, +77.7 cumulative grade)
G Mike Iupati (round 1, pick 17, +89.2 cumulative grade) graded higher over their first five full seasons with San Francisco, but Bowman was picked 74 picks later and was just as much a part of the 49ers' smash-mouth identity during Jim Harbaugh's tenure as Iupati was on the other side of the ball.
Worst pick: WR Kyle Williams (round 6, pick 206, -7.6 cumulative grade).
S Taylor Mays (round 2, pick 49, +0.1 cumulative grade) was picked much earlier and was gone after one season, but mutter "Kyle Williams" in any 49ers fan's ear and they will turn pale quicker than a Giants fan hearing "Trey Junkin."
I haven't had the stomach to go back and watch Taylor Mays film to see how he graded out at +0.1. That being said, the fact that he was gone the next year and has never developed into much makes it odd to place a sixth round pick ahead of him. Yes, Williams was a big reason (not the only reason) the 49ers lost the 2012 NFC Championship Game, but for purposes of assessing the draft, I don't think that's entirely fair.
These draft grades don't appear to assess the undrafted free agency class for each team. The 49ers 2010 UDFA class did not have many hits, but Tramaine Brock qualifies as a really solid one, and would only add to the mix. Some of the better UDFAs that year included Victor Cruz, LeGarrette Blount, Tom Crabtree, and Jake Ballard.