The 5 Biggest Draft-Day Mistakes in San Francisco 49ers History
The resurrection of the San Francisco 49ers has gone more quickly than initially expected when head coach Jim Harbaugh took over three years ago. Now, expectations are through the roof, and only a Super Bowl championship will appease the "49ers Faithful."
General manager Trent Baalke has built the current roster primarily through the draft, and 2014 will be no different. The 49ers lack the available salary-cap room to sign big-money free agents, so the draft is critical to the ongoing success of the team.
In the history of the 49ers franchise, there have been some great players selected in the draft, including Hall of Fame superstars Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott and Joe Montana. Other outstanding players have also come through the draft, including Patrick Willis, Frank Gore and John Brodie.
However, over the years, there have been some clunkers thrown in. In order to consider the worst moves the 49ers have made on draft day, we must first look at the most important selections, those in the first round—important decisions which the criteria for this list must revolve around.
Let's take a closer look at the 49ers' biggest draft-day mistakes.
5. Mike Rumph
When the San Francisco 49ers made Mike Rumph their first-round selection, No. 27 overall, in the 2002 NFL draft, they envisioned a cornerback in the same mold as Ronnie Lott.
Rumph had the size the 49ers were looking for, at 6'2" and 205 pounds. He was also touted as a big hitter, again in the same mold as Lott.
Unfortunately, then-GM Terry Donahue made a colossal mistake by selecting Rumph with the 49ers' top pick.
Rumph had poor football instincts, failed to stay healthy and also struggled in pass coverage. The 49ers tried to correct their mistake by moving Rumph to safety, where his size would be a benefit and his weak coverage skills could be disguised.
However, the move to safety also did not pan out. In four years with the 49ers, Rumph played in only 19 games out of a possible 64, largely due to injury.
4. Tim Anderson
Unless you are a longtime, hardcore fan of the San Francisco 49ers, odds are, you have never heard of Tim Anderson.
Anderson was a star cornerback at Ohio State from 1968-1970. He was named first-team All-American and was expected to step into the 49ers' defensive backfield immediately.
The 49ers selected Anderson with the 23rd overall pick in the 1971 draft.
Unfortunately, the selection of Anderson turned out to be a huge mistake.
Instead of playing for the 49ers, Anderson decided to play in Canada. He played in the CFL from 1971-1974.
After his three seasons in Canada, Anderson returned to the 49ers in 1975. However, the skills the 49ers saw when they originally drafted him were not there. He started only two games in 1975, before moving on to Buffalo for the 1976 season.
By 1977 Anderson was out of the league.
3. Rashaun Woods
The San Francisco 49ers had some outstanding wide receivers over the years, prior to drafting Rashaun Woods. These great receivers included RC Owens, Gene Washington, Dwight Clark, Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Terrell Owens.
Rashaun Woods was expected to be the next great wide receiver to wear the red and gold. The 49ers selected Woods with the 31st pick in the 2004 NFL draft.
The GM that made the decision was Terry Donahue, who also selected Mike Rumph. Kwame Harris, who was also a worthy candidate for this infamous list, was a Donahue's first-round selection in 2005. Donahue proved himself as arguably the worst GM in 49ers' history.
At Oklahoma State, Woods had a brilliant career, with 293 receptions for 4,414 yards and 42 touchdowns. Unfortunately, he was never able to put together even a glimmer of the success he had in college.
Woods was often injured and did not endear himself to the 49ers with a poor work ethic.
In his first season with the 49ers, Woods played in 14 games, with seven catches for 160 yards. Due to injuries and a perceived lack of desire, Woods did not play in a single game in 2005 and was released after the season.
2. A.J. Jenkins
Prior to the 2012 draft, most draft experts had projected wide receiver A.J. Jenkins as a mid-second-round pick. Unfortunately for the 49ers, GM Trent Baalke did not listen to these so-called experts.
It was as if Baalke wanted to prove how smart he was with the Jenkins selection, who was flying under the first-round radar screen.
Jenkins was the 49ers' first-round selection, taken 30th overall. Jenkins reported to camp out of shape, and his work ethic was far below what was expected of him.
Even though several of the 49ers receivers were hurt throughout 2012, Jenkins only got into three games and did not catch a pass.
Prior to the 2013 season, after watching Jenkins in the spring, then in training camp, the 49ers ran out of patience and traded him for another underproducing wide receiver, Jon Baldwin.
The 2012 draft was a major bust for Baalke and the 49ers. Only two players remained on the roster this past season, LaMichael James and Joe Looney.
There is a strong possibility that James will not make the roster in 2014, as the 49ers are excited about the return of Marcus Lattimore from injury. Looney provides depth to the 49ers' offensive line, but there is a question whether he can be a quality NFL starter.
Drafts like the 49ers had in 2012 can negatively impact any team for years.
1. Jim Druckenmiller
The architects of the 49ers' glory years were Bill Walsh and John McVay. Walsh, who earned the nickname "The Genius," told the 49ers not to take Druckenmiller but to select Jake Plummer instead.
However, Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark, who were responsible for the 49ers' draft, wanted to show the world that they had emerged from under Walsh's shadow. They chose to ignore Walsh's suggestion and selected Druckenmiller with the 26th pick in the 1997 draft.
Druckenmiller was blessed with a powerful arm, but he did not have good mobility, which was essential in the 49ers offense. He was a big, strong man, standing 6'4" and weighing in at 241 pounds.
Unfortunately for the 49ers, Druckenmiller also struggled with the mental aspect of playing quarterback in the NFL. The bottom line is he had trouble learning the plays.
The 49ers offense was complex and featured multiple options and reads. This was overwhelming to Druckenmiller, who's only asset was that he could throw the ball a country mile.
This was a classic case of egos getting in the way of making a sound personnel decision. When a quarterback guru like Walsh suggests that you should select Plummer and stay away from Druckenmiller, if you choose to ignore him, you deserve everything you get.
Druckenmiller played only two years with the 49ers, getting into six games. He completed only 21 of his 52 pass attempts, a 40.2 rate. He had one career touchdown pass and four interceptions.
Following the 1998 season, the 49ers traded Druckenmiller to the Miami Dolphins. Jimmy Johnson was the coach, and the Miami offense was far less complex than what Druckenmiller struggled with in San Francisco. He still couldn't command the new offense and was cut.
NFL stats are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.
College stats are courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.