It's been said that a draft can't truly be evaluated until about two-three years after the fact. Players often take time to develop, and their potential isn't always realized immediately. This is especially true with certain positions such as quarterbacks, wide receivers, and defensive linemen.
We are now two years removed from the 49ers 2008 draft, and as the players selected prepare to enter their third year in the league I thought that now would be a good time to grade our performance in that draft.
Quick background: The 49ers were coming off a 5-11 season and Mike Nolan's third year as head coach. First-year OC Jim Hostler was a disaster, Alex Smith played in only seven games due to a shoulder injury, our offense finished 32nd, and our defense 25th.
Aside from Frank Gore, Nate Clements, and rookies Joe Staley and Patrick Willis, almost every position required an upgrade heading into this draft. With that in mind, let's take a look at how we did:
Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina—First round, 29th overall
Balmer has had almost zero impact in his first two seasons with the team, totaling just 19 tackles with zero sacks. I'll spare him an F as there is a remote possibility that he'll eventually develop into a decent backup, but having spent a first-round pick on this guy he has to this point been an utter disappointment.
Chilo Rachal, G, USC—Second round, 39th overall
Rachal did start 15 games for us in 2009, but has been inconsistent, and has yet to prove that he is the long-term solution at RG for the Niners. The team is hoping to see a much improved Rachal in 2010, but I'll believe it when I see it.
Reggie Smith, CB, Oklahoma—Third round, 75th overall
Entering his third year with the team, Smith has yet to find his niche. Converted to safety in 2009, Smith played sparingly—recording just four tackles and zero interceptions. Depending on how the draft goes, Smith may find himself fighting for a roster spot in 2010.
Cody Wallace, C, Texas A&M—Fourth round, 107th overall
Another guy that Nolan fell in love with while coaching the Senior Bowl, he was selected to backup Eric Heitmann, and he has done just that (Heitmann has started all 32 games since). Wallace has played in just one game in two seasons, so we have yet to see what he can do.
Josh Morgan, WR, Virginia Tech—Sixth round, 174th overall
Morgan has developed into a solid No. 2 receiver, and is really just beginning to show his full potential. Sixth-round picks are often throwaways or long shots, so considering we were able to grab a WR of Morgan's ability this late in the draft, I'll give the pick an 'A.'
Larry Grant, OLB, Ohio State - 7th round, 214th overall
See the above reference to throwaway/long shot. Grant was assigned to the practice squad and was eventually signed by the St. Louis Rams. He didn't start a single game for the Rams, but in a bit of irony did record the lone sack of his career in Week Four—against the 49ers.
So there, my friends, is the 2008 draft in a nutshell. Six players, two starters, two backups, one bust, and one that never was. I understand that having only six picks we didn't have much to work with, but it still doesn't seem to reflect what one would consider a successful draft.
To me, this draft hinged on our first three selections, and to say the least I'm not at all impressed.
Taking into account the late round gem in Josh Morgan, and the yet to be seen potential of Cody Wallace as Heitmann's successor, I'm left with what it is, unfortunately, a very low grade:
2008 Draft Overall Grade: C-/D+