The approaching 2016 NFL Draft has everybody looking for new ways to break down draft performance by teams. The Washington Post put together an interesting look at how each team has performed over the last 20 years. The San Francisco 49ers ranked No. 27. Around the NFC West, the 49ers ranked ahead of the No. 29 Los Angeles Rams, and behind the No. 13 Seattle Seahawks and No. 21 Arizona Cardinals.
The Post used approximate value, which is detailed over at Pro Football Reference. It is far from a perfect stat, but it is certainly one useful tool in trying to assess player performance. And given their ridiculous archive of data, I don't mind it as an option in this particular analysis.
The 49ers are not that far off the average value, but it is still pretty low. The average value is 12.7, and the 49ers are at 11.29. The Pittsburgh Steelers are at the top with average value at 16.37.
Going back 20 years means we start with the Jim Druckenmiller draft. That year, the 49ers ended up with Druckenmiller in the first round, Marc Edwards in the second round, and Greg Clark in the third round. Clark ended up as the most valuable in a slim draft class.
Druckenmiller rates out as the biggest bust over the last 20 years. I would have thought it would be A.J. Jenkins, but he had a Career AV of 2, compared to Druckenmiller's 1. Druckenmiller finished tied with Rashaun Woods, so there are your bottom two!
One issue for the 49ers is that in recent years, they have had too much non-production. The red-shirt strategy has not panned out as well as one might hope. And having a fairly stacked team during part of the Harbaugh years left the team rolling the dice a bit more. Over the last five years, the 49ers have had 50 draft picks. 9 of those 50 have yet to play a game. That 18 percent rate is the highest in the NFL. The big question this year will be whether or not the team focuses more on immediate impact players, or if Trent Baalke continues to peruse the injured aisle.
The last couple years, we have seen some improvement in the 49ers draft classes. If things continue to develop, the 49ers would likely climb in that Post study. Part of that is getting rid of a 3-person draft class from 1997, but part of that will potentially include more contributions from Arik Armstead, Tank Carradine, DeAndre Smelter, Mike Davis, Blake Bell, and more.
This is a big year for Baalke in terms of the draft, but it is also a pretty huge year for him just in terms of getting more production out of the recent draft classes. The 2014 and 2015 classes will be the focus, but 2013 still has some opportunities to do something....anything. The 2013 class has gotten clear contributions from Eric Reid and Quinton Dial, but beyond that it has been poor. My guess is Tank Carradine is getting his last real chance to make an impact, and Vance McDonald needs to learn to hold onto the football better. And Quinton Patton? He'll get opportunities with Anquan Boldin likely out of the picture, but again, he needs to get something figured out soon as he enters the final year of his contract.
Suffice to say, Baalke is counting on some big contributions from these last three classes.