In the early 2000s, in what turned out to be a decade-long slump, the 49ers made a number of terrible first-round picks.
Round 1, Pick 24: Ahmed Plummer (2000)
According to NFL Draft Scout, this Ohio State product was the No. 1 cornerback available in 2000.
On draft day, Plummer would end up being the second CB taken—after Deltha O’Neal—and the second pick by the 49ers, who chose Julian Peterson at No. 16. The first-round corner would see action as a rookie, starting 59 games from 2000-03.
And in 2001, he did have a big year—one that saw him amass seven interceptions and 18 pass deflections.
However, as the years went on, he was on a clear decline and appeared to be just a run-of-the-mill DB. Eventually, the coaching staff began to lose faith in his abilities, and in 2004 Plummer would clash with coach Mike Nolan (via Rotoworld).
After playing six seasons of defensive back for the 49ers (2000-05), fighting ankle, neck and shoulder injuries throughout, Plummer would end up retiring (h/t Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com).
In all fairness to Ahmed Plummer and the 49ers, it was an uninspiring draft class for CBs.
Round 1, Pick 27: Mike Rumph (2002)
In 2002, five players from the University of Miami were taken in Round 1, including three defensive backs.
San Francisco would attempt to cash in on the reigning National Champions’ roster by picking Mike Rumph at the end of Day 1. The mistake they made was being complacent with which player they would select.
Only three picks earlier, Rumph's Hurricanes teammate, Ed Reed, was selected by the Baltimore Ravens.
The 49ers should have been aggressive getting Reed that year, who had 17 interceptions (four touchdowns) in two seasons with the ‘Canes. And in double the time, Rumph’s numbers still did not even come close to Reed’s—yet he was taken only a couple picks later.
At the pro level, Rumph lacked the coverage skills to play cornerback, and was eventually moved to safety before washing out. It soon became clear that he was another first-round bust.
Reed, still active, has 61 career interceptions, which is good enough for 10th all-time, per Pro Football Reference. Rumph, on the other hand, retired in his fifth year, finishing with merely three career picks.
And even if they were determined not to trade up in the first round, it should be noted that the Steelers selected FS Chris Hope in Round 3 at No. 94 overall. There was talent in the middle rounds, but the personnel department failed to identify it.
Settling for Mike Rumph over Ed Reed is one of the 49ers’ biggest mistakes that is not often talked about.
Round 1, Pick 26: Kwame Harris (2003)
There were 20 future Pro Bowlers selected in the first two rounds of this draft, and with multiple needs, the 49ers missed on all of them.
Near the end of the first round, the San Francisco 49ers would select Stanford’s Kwame Harris to be their franchise tackle. He was not the most decorated lineman, but with his measurables (6'7"), Harris was the No. 2-rated tackle, per NFL Draft Scout.
The weakest aspect of his game was in pass-protection, which is something that had been an issue for the team all the way up until 2012. Since Harris rode this roster until 2007, it set the Niners back for a good part of the decade.
And there were solid offensive linemen available after Round 1, including Jon Stinchomb, Wade Smith, David Diehl and Tony Pashos—all of whom might have been better options.
And with Plummer and Rumph not working out, the 49ers also desperately needed a cornerback. California’s Nnamdi Asomugha was still on the board, and wound up being taken at No. 31 by Oakland.
Had the 49ers taken Keith Bullock (2000), Ed Reed (2002) and Nnamdi Asomugha (2003), this team might not have faltered so terribly in the 2000 decade.