It is a testament to the information age that, if you play college football and you meet certain physical specs, there’s a good chance you’re going to get scouted. Teams put so much effort in developing their own talent that missing out on the small-school star or the big-school backup makes general managers grind their teeth.
Now that the NFL draft has been dropped to seven rounds, each pick becomes much more calculated. Front-office personnel don’t really care where good players come from, but the manager of the team’s salary cap does.
A team that drafts a long-term starter in the late rounds invariably gets a great deal because that player for his first three or four years doesn’t earn as much as players drafted in the first or second rounds.
So there’s as much scrutiny put into the late rounds as the early ones; getting good players for less than other teams means more flexibility in maintaining roster continuity. The late-round stars often stay with teams longer because their contracts fit into the team’s salary structure.
The Forty-Niners have had good and desultory results with their late-round picks. Often, former coach Bill Walsh traded them away. Nonetheless, over the last 30 years or so, there have been a few gems.
Here are the 10 best late-round 49er draft picks in recent franchise history.