In the 2016 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers were set to pick 7th, and a great deal of mock drafts had Oregon’s DeForest Buckner going to the team. That was predictable. Towards the end of the first round, the 49ers traded back into the round to select one more player. That wasn’t so predictable.
Still on the board was UCLA’s Myles Jack. A devastating linebacker and potential top-5 pick with just one problem: his knee injury, a torn meniscus, was fresh off healing. While he claimed he could play ASAP, he also said issues in the future could potentially lead to microfracture surgery.
This is too obvious of a pick. The 49ers’ gimmick was selecting players with significant knee injuries. During the Jim Harbaugh years, they were considered value picks with the selections of Tank Carradine and Marcus Lattimore — the earlier was thought to be ready by training camp the year of his drafting (he wasn’t) and the latter of which never saw a single gameday snap in the NFL. Later on, they seemed to provide some sort of addiction then-general manager Trent Baalke needed to satiate. If there was a player that made a name for themselves in college while also blowing their knee out towards the end, chances are the 49ers were giving them a long look.
Well, that aforementioned pick didn’t go to Jack. Instead, the 49ers selected Stanford guard Joshua Garnett. The position made sense—the 49ers had one of the worst O-lines in the league—though the player was considered a bit of a reach.
Jack fell into the 2nd round and was picked by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Had the 49ers stayed put (they traded their second round selection among others to Kansas City), Jack would have gone one pick before their second round selection, meaning there was plenty of ammunition to go up a few spots, rather than an entire round.
Hindsight is always 20/20. Despite his knee concerns, Jack played in all 16 games both in 2016 and 2017, and racked up some nice plays in the playoffs as well.
As for Garnett? He’s still waiting to play a full season — 15 games his rookie year, and IR in 2017. It’s a bit early to say he’s a bust or a wasted pick, but the body of work Jack has put together when compared to Garnett certainly marks another questionable decision by Baalke.
The one injury all star that wasn’t picked. Because, 49ers.