San Francisco 49ers Messed Up Badly in the 2008 NFL Draft

Colan Lamont@clamontsportAnalyst IIJuly 18, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - CIRCA 2010: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Kentwan Balmer of the San Francisco 49ers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2010 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images

People often say a bad draft can set a franchise back at least five years.

I tend to believe that a quarterback bust may result in that, but that it can be otherwise resolved pretty quickly.

Just how bad was the 2008 draft?

Well, there is only one player left on the current roster and that is seventh round selection Larry Grant, a valuable backup for Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman—the best inside linebackers in the NFL.

Kentwan Balmer was an awful pick and personifies a draft bust.

I understand that he didn't fit the 3-4 defense, but to fail to record a sack even after a couple of years in the league is pitiful for a first round pick.

Thankfully, Balmer only screwed up for two years; during which he performed horribly, went AWOL, refusing to show up for camp and generally just didn't work out.

He was subsequently traded to a division foe in the Seattle Seahawks and has never shown anywhere near first-round talent since.

I suppose the one positive of the Balmer saga is that his departure allowed the vastly underrated Ray McDonald to become a mainstay for the team.

The team didn't fare too well in the second round either; selecting Chilo Rachal.

The selection of a guard was fine but the 2008 draft wasn't very deep for offensive lineman and so, I always disliked the pick.

Rachal straight away became the whipping boy for the team and really couldn't become the solution to the right guard spot.

It's amazing to think that it's been four years down the line and the right guard position still isn't settled. Okay, so a draft bust sets you back four years.

Here is a list of players who were available between the selections of Balmer and Rachal: Dustin Keller, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Flowers, Curtis Lofton, Matt Forte, DeSean Jackson, Calais Campbell, Jason Jones, Ray Rice and Jamaal Charles.

Besides Keller, every one of these players are Pro-Bowl quality.

I really wanted DeSean Jackson, the local product from California who is one of the most electrifying players in the NFL.

I think many people expected the 49ers to pick Jackson whether it would have been with the first or second-round pick.

Reggie Smith was a solid if not spectacular pick who filled in at safety and even started for a time.

Cody Wallace didn't do too much and Josh Morgan was a perennial underachiever or overachiever  depending on who you ask.

Ultimately the 49ers survived this debacle due to their otherwise stellar draft history—a history that includes the class of 2005: Alex Smith and Frank Gore, two offensive mainstays.

Vernon Davis became a 49er in 2006 and continues to excel at being the most talented tight end in the league.

A Pro Bowl left tackle in Joe Staley and the best defensive player in the game in Patrick Willis joined the ranks in 2007 alongside Dashon Goldson, Ray McDonald and Tarell Brown.

Wow, that 2007 draft must go down as one of the best in the NFL of the last 10 years.

I'd say 2009 was a bit of a down year, but Michael Crabtree still oozes potential.

The 2010 and 2011 drafts provided excellent starters like Mike Iupati, Anthony Davis, Aldon Smith, Chris Culliver plus many other valuable weapons.

Just from looking at how young the roster is, you can tell that the 49ers are a great at building through the draft.

So, how did they get it so wrong in 2008?