To better quantify a team’s draft success, it is best to think like a skilled valuator. Although incompetent when it comes to calculating credit derivatives or effectively stimulating the economy, economists are masters of the art of valuation.
Like a good economist, this sports writer set out to compare each 49er first round selection under the Scott McCloughan and Mike Nolan administration by weighing the marginal benefit against the foregone opportunity costs of each pick.
To the economically uninformed, the marginal benefit would include the added value, or player, acquired with each selection. To quantify this value, one could simply evaluate the career statistics (adjusted for position) and contribution of the respective athlete.
Opportunity cost on the other hand would be determined by valuing the most feasible alternative selection at each first round pick. In selecting their player of choice, the 49ers’ front office concedes the opportunity to select another athlete; hence constituting the value of that foregone athlete as an opportunity cost.
Although Peyton Manning is a future hall of fame quarterback and former No. 1 overall draft pick, inferiorly talented quarterbacks of other draft class’ aren’t necessarily certifiable busts. That is because teams are not foregoing Peyton Manning to acquire their quarterback of the future.
On the contrary, when the Cleveland Brown’s made Tim Couch the No. 1 selection of the 1999 NFL draft, they surrendered the potential rights and Pro Bowl services of quarterback Donovan McNabb who was picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles with the very next selection. It is safe to assume that the Cleveland draft selection resulted in a net loss, as their marginal benefit was a marginal player and their opportunity cost was a franchise quarterback.
Ultimately, it is the opportunity costs of each selection that provide fans their figurative bench-mark on front office judgment day.
Given that the poker-faced McCloughan would give up a limb before surrendering his draft board, the alternative players foregone consisted of the best players available at positions of need. To determine value and need, I incorporated fan sentiment and the various value rankings of draft analysts.
The following is an analysis and valuation of each 49er first round selection, including their respective bench-mark prospects.