The San Francisco 49ers did themselves no real favors in the 2015 draft that was conducted last Friday-Sunday. They picked up some good raw talent but I thought they misused at least half of their top 10 picks including wasting one on a punter. That’s right: a punter!
As I saw it — and several other pundits agreed (or did I agree with them? hmmm) — the Niners’ primary draft needs, in order, were: inside linebacker, wide receiver, corner, defensive line and offensive line.
So what did Trent Baalke and “Head” Coach Jim Tomsula actually pick?
They started with three defensive grabs: two defensive linemen and a safety. Then they focused the next seven picks exclusively on offense, picking up two tight ends and a wide-out, one running back, a lone offensive lineman and — as I’ve already exclaimed — a freaking punter!
Color me unimpressed.
Their top pick, Derik Armstead, is an impressive physical specimen (6-7, 292) but his stats at Oregon were mediocre at best. Tomsula is a former DL coach and he undoubtedly is enamored of his ability to whip someone like Armstead into shape, but I don’t see him as the heir apparent to Justin Smith that the Niners really needed to find.
Second pick Jaquiski Tartt, aside from having one of the more interesting names in the draft, is a safety who looks like he’s above average for a position the Niners didn’t need to fill. They already have Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid at safety and spending so high a pick on a position that isn’t pressing isn’t a great draft strategy. But then a “head” coach with no experience probably doesn’t know that. Sheesh.
I’m more impressed with the Niners’ third pick, OLB Eli Harold out of Virginia. He’s big enough for the role (6-3, 247) and he’s a proven pass rusher (36.5 tackles for a loss in three seasons of college ball). Harold’s capable of playing DE as well as OLB and while he doesn’t address the more serious need at ILB, he’ll probably start as a rookie and contribute to the pass rush.
I didn’t see tight end as a 2015 need but Baalke and Tomsula apparently did. The guy they grabbed fourth, Blake Bell of Oklahoma (6-6, 252) seems a bit weak. He was slated to go in the fifth round by the pre-draft speculators. With just 214 yards and four TDs receiving in his senior year, he’s a bit of a yawner for my money. I know Vernon Davis is a free agent after the season but drafting this high for a mediocre possible replacement just didn’t show me much savvy.
Running Back Mike Davis of South Carolina was the fifth selection by the Niners. In another case of filling a need that didn’t exist, the Niners probably did end up with a guy who might help in 2-3 seasons after Kendall Hunter and Reggie Bush may depart via the FA route. So an insurance pick but like all insurance, too expensive unless the risk actually occurs.
DeAndre Smelter out of Georgia Tech was the first wide receiver the Niners picked and they grabbed him way earlier than they probably needed to. Because of a torn ACL that kept him out of much of last season, he’s not likely to contribute in his first year, which is when the Niners needed the wideout help. I don’t like this pick at all, even though he’s a big-bodied (6-2,226) player who could give Colin Kaepernick a decent target if he ever gets healthy.
With their seventh selection, SF picked up — are you ready? — a PUNTER! Completely wasted pick, I don’t care how good the guy is. Andy Lee is one of the best and although he’ll be gone at some point, punters are always lying around for easy pickup even mid-season. To waste a top-10 pick on Bradley Pinion of Clemson — the first specialist taken in the draft (there’s a reason seasoned coaches don’t waste high draft picks on these buys, Tomsula!) shows a serious lack of football chops. A very telling pick.
Baalke focused on the O-Line with his eighth and ninth picks, selecting Ian Silberman of Boston College and Trenton Brown of Florida. Offensive line was probably the lowest priority need but at least it was a need. These two guys are likely longer-term prospects but are not likely to have a near-term impact on a line that needs some shoring up.
Tight End Rory Anderson of South Carolina was the 10th pick made by the Sad Sack Niners. Again, at the risk of repeating myself, they didn’t need one tight end, let alone two. Anderson is another big target (6-5, 244) for Kaep but without wide-outs, tight ends are not all that useful in the passing game.
So my bottom line on the Niners 2015 draft?
In terms of drafting to meet the greatest needs: D
In terms of picking up raw football talent: C+
Overall, not a great draft in a year when they really needed one. Hope for the season now dashed!