The time it takes to accurately assess how a team did in a given draft is often viewed as three to five years out. Realistically some players take longer, and others take less time, but the three-to-five year mark can at least give you a decent handle on how the front office has done.
At the same time, that is not going to stop assessments of a draft only a year removed. Draft re-grades are always a popular subject, because hindsight really is the best! And so, we bring you Mel Kiper’s re-grading of the 2016 NFL Draft.
The ESPN draft analyst grades each drafted immediately after the draft ends, and he follows up a year later to see where things stand. In assessing each team’s class, he considers a few factors. Contributing to a winner is worth more than piling up reps for a bad team, rookie undrafted free agents are added in, and whether players who contributed could do so for most teams. He is focusing on what he thinks is relative value.
A year ago, Kiper gave the 49ers a C for their draft class. A year later, he has dropped them to a C-minus. Here’s what he had to say about the 49ers:
A lot has changed since then-GM Trent Baalke and then-coach Chip Kelly were running point. If the re-grade seems harsh, just remember how bad this team was in 2016. You expect rookies to make contributions to a team this bad, but then the return was pretty lean. So far DeForest Buckner looks like a pretty decent pro. He started 15 games and moved around a lot, and he picked up six sacks and 73 tackles. I didn't like the Joshua Garnett pick, because if you trade up for a guard I hope it's not a reach on value. Garnett started the final 11 games at right guard but struggled a great deal.
After that, there just isn't much. Will Redmond didn't play, and Ronald Blair had some flashes (three sacks) and will be pass-rush depth in 2017. There isn't much to speak of after that, aside from part-time work for Rashard Robinson. If Buckner becomes a really good player and Garnett gets better, this class looks a little better. But the returns were pretty light in 2016.
I think Robinson probably deserves a little more credit for his contributions, but durability issues are something to track given his relatively skinny frame. He got beaten badly at times (Mike Evans), but I thought he showed some serious ability as well. The 49ers signed K’Waun Williams prior to the new league year, but otherwise retain the same group of cornerbacks as last year. If they move Jimmie Ward to free safety, it potentially opens the door for more opportunities for Robinson. Either way, I think he’ll be one to watch throughout the offseason workout program and into training camp.
This draft class had a strong addition in DeForest Buckner, but I do agree that plenty of questions remain. Joshua Garnett got into the starting lineup, but it was not the most impressive of rookie seasons. Will Redmond did not get off the NFI list, and is starting from a relatively blank slate this year in a new defense. Aaron Burbridge got some work, but did not offer much, finishing with seven receptions for 88 yards. Considering he was a sixth round picks, expectations for more are slim.
The 49ers can still get something from several of these players, but given the current overhaul, it would not surprise me if they moved on from some of these guys sooner rather than later. The training camp depth chart could tell us a lot with regard to some of these second year players.