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What if 49ers had listened to new Raiders GM Mike Mayock in the last eight drafts?

Things would look good the past couple years, better but not great in prior years.

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The Oakland Raiders made a change at their general manager position, and followed the lead of the San Francisco 49ers. Like the 49ers hiring former NFL player and broadcaster John Lynch in 2017, the Raiders decided to dip into the media and hired NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock to serve as their next general manager. It remains to be seen what power he will have alongside head coach Jon Gruden, but it’s a high profile addition.

Over the past decade, Mayock has joined Mel Kiper as one of the biggest names in the draft analysis business. He has dominated draft conversation, culminating in his annual mock draft shortly before the draft. Given his move to the Raiders, I thought it would be fun to take a look at what would have happened if the 49ers had followed Mayock’s mock drafts each of the past eight years.

The 49ers have been hit or miss over that stretch. They looked like they had a great class in 2011, led by Aldon Smith and Colin Kaepernick, but that went south in a hurry. They’ve had some clear clunkers as well, most notably in a 2012 class led by wide receiver A.J. Jenkins — who washed out of the NFL before his rookie deal ended.

Before we get into Mayock’s picks, here is a look at the 49ers first round picks each of the past eight years.

49ers first round picks 2011-2018

Year Player All Pro Pro Bowls Starter seasons Games started
Year Player All Pro Pro Bowls Starter seasons Games started
2011 Aldon Smith, DE 1 1 3 30
2012 A.J. Jenkins, WR 0 0 0 0
2013 Eric Reid, FS 0 1 5 69
2014 Jimmie Ward, DB 0 0 4 31
2015 Arik Armstead, DL 0 0 3 27
2016 DeForest Buckner, DL 0 1 3 47
2016 Joshua Garnett, OG 0 0 1 11
2017 Solomon Thomas, DL 0 0 2 25
2017 Reuben Foster, ILB 0 0 2 16
2018 Mike McGlinchey, OT 0 0 1 16
1 3 24 272

There is some talent in there, but not nearly enough overall production. Ten picks securing one All Pro nod and three Pro Bowl nods (Buckner’s is as an alternate) is a disappointment. If you want to ignore subjectivity in awards, total games started is atrocious. For the ten players drafted over the past eight years, they could have started a total of 656 games. The draft picks started 272 regular season games with the 49ers, which amounts to 41.5 percent of total potential games started. By comparison, the Dallas Cowboys’ first round picks over the past eight years have started 81 percent of total possible regular season games. Considering Jenkins was traded at the start of his second season and Aldon Smith was released in his fourth year, it is not surprising the 49ers are not getting the starts.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what Mayock projected for the 49ers in the same timespan.

Mayock first round mocks 2011-2018

Year Player All Pro Pro Bowls Starter seasons Games started
Year Player All Pro Pro Bowls Starter seasons Games started
2011 Blaine Gabbert, QB 0 0 3 48
2012 Kendall Wright, WR 0 0 2 45
2013 Zach Ertz, TE 0 2 4 56
2014 Stephon Tuitt, DE 0 0 4 58
2015 Arik Armstead, DL 0 0 1 27
2016 DeForest Buckner, DL 0 1 3 47
2017 Jamal Adams, S 0 1 2 32
2018 Denzel Ward, CB 0 1 1 12
0 5 20 325

It’s interesting to see the 49ers really not getting much more out of their 2011 and 2012 first round picks under Mayock. Aldon Smith turned into a disaster, but he was still more productive than Blaine Gabbert in his time with the 49ers. Gabbert is going to spend a long time in the NFL as a backup quarterback, but he has no business starting much of anything.

The 49ers blew it with the A.J. Jenkins pick, but Mayock’s selection of Kendall Wright would not have been all that impressive. Quite literally anything would have been better than Jenkins, but Wright has turned in an underwhelming career.

Even without looking at the players listed, there is a very clear and ugly fact. Mayock’s mock drafts would have resulted in nearly 20 percent more games started, even though he only mocked eight picks (the 49ers ended up with ten picks due to trades). Some mediocre players have hung around the league as starters, but even just getting a mediocre player would have been a better result than some of these picks.

The most interesting comparison might be between the 49ers 2013 pick, Eric Reid, and Mayock’s 2013 mock draft pick, Zach Ertz. Reid got off to a better start in his career, earning a Pro Bowl nod as a rookie and starting all but one game his first three seasons. Things went south from there with injuries in 2016 and 2017, and then a slow return in 2018 after some questionable decision-making around the league as to his free agency.

Meanwhile, Ertz did not technically earn the full-time starting tight end role until 2016, but he was one of the team’s best receivers prior to that. He played fewer snaps than Brent Celek in 2014 aand 2015, but in both seasons far exceeded him as a pass catcher. Ertz firmly took over the starting job in 2016, and earned Pro Bowl nods in 2017 and 2018. Ertz set the single-season record for receptions by a tight end. The 49ers parted ways with Vernon Davis in 2015, but a Davis/Ertz combo even a couple years later would have been rather impressive.

It’s interesting to see the 49ers end up drafting the Oregon duo in 2015 and 2016. Buckner has emerged as a stud on the defensive line, while Armstead is finally rounding into form after injuries cut short his past two seasons. He’s proven to be a strong run stopper, and quietly a solid pass rusher. Pro Football Focus ranked him 63rd among defensive linemen in their pass rush productivity stat, while Buckner ranked 51st.

The truly big difference at this point is Jamal Adams vs. Solomon Thomas. The 49ers ended up with Thomas and Reuben Foster in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Foster was released after being arrested a second time on suspicion of domestic violence, while Thomas was solid the second half of the season, but not exactly showing out as one would expect from the No. 3 overall pick. Meanwhile, Adams has emerged as one of the best safeties in the NFL. I think most would trade out Thomas and Foster for Adams, and plenty wanted Adams back in 2017.

The 49ers would be off to a better start in terms of first round picks if Mayock was picking over John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan. I’m comfortable with Mike McGlinchey’s long-term abilities, but it would be hard to say no to Denzel Ward. Imagine a secondary with Ward and Adams?

Mayock now gets to pick two spots behind the 49ers in the 2019 NFL Draft. Of course, I return to my thought in the first paragraph: how much power will Mayock have compared to Gruden? My guess is not a whole lot, but it will be something to watch as free agency and the draft approach.