The San Francisco 49ers struck gold with their 2011 first-round draft pick, Aldon Smith. He totaled 14 quarterback sacks last season, only one-half a sack away from the all-time rookie record.
In today's NFL, with salaries skyrocketing for the top free agents on the market, it's critical for a team to have a successful draft. The 49ers got productivity with players selected throughout their most recent draft.
Third-round pick Chris Culliver was the nickelback for most of the season and fourth-round selection Kendall Hunter proved to be an explosive situational running back, as Frank Gore's understudy.
49ers' GM Trent Baalke received great value later in the draft also. Colin Jones, who was taken in the sixth round, was outstanding on special teams.
Bruce Miller, who was selected in Round 7, made a successful transition from a college defensive end to a starting NFL fullback. He supplanted veteran Moran Norris, was more effective and had a much smaller contract than Norris. Miller was one of the steals of the 2011 draft.
If second-round pick Colin Kaepernick develops into a top-flight quarterback, the 49ers will look back on the 2011 draft and consider it a grand slam. Even if Kaepernick washes out, this will still be considered a good draft for the 49ers.
The 2012 draft will be much more difficult for Baalke and the 49ers. With a record of 13-3 this past season, the 49ers will be selecting at No. 30 in Round 1 and towards the end of each subsequent round, also.
Let's take a closer look at how I see this year's draft panning out for the 49ers.