All along I have been saying one way for the San Francisco 49ers to waste away their top two picks would be to take two first-round offensive linemen.
In the first ever prime time NFL Draft and the first draft run by de facto GM Trent Baalke, the 49ers managed to even give up a fourth-round pick in completely wasting away their No. 13 and No. 17 selections.
They traded No. 13 and their fourth-round pick to the Denver Broncos to move up to No. 11 and take Anthony Davis from Rutgers.
This meant they found a way to give up two draft choices (No. 13 and fourth round) to get a guy who first off would certainly have been there had they stood pat at No. 13 and secondly was, by all accounts, not as good as another option still on the board: Bryan Bulaga from Iowa.
Going into the draft, Russel Okung, Trent Williams, and Bryan Bulaga were consistently ranked as the top three offensive tackles and offensive linemen in the draft. I had said that only one of those three warranted a first round investment, and I still very strongly feel that way.
Instead, the 49ers managed to wind up using No. 13, No. 17, and their fourth round pick (having already given up their fifth round pick for Ted Ginn Jr.) to get two offensive linemen with plenty of questions surrounding them.
The 49ers could have ended up with Bryan Bulaga and Earl Thomas out of Texas, and would still have their fourth round choice.
Instead they got Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati, and needlessly lost a mid-rounder, leaving them desperately short of mid-round picks in a draft which stands to be as deep as the Mariana Trench. Not only was this draft a complete flop in the first round, but it will hurt the 49ers for the rest of weekend as well.
The decision to ignore defense in the first round basically prevents any realistic chance of the 49ers being able to pursue Toby Gerhart out of Stanford with their second-round pick. If they take a DB in the second round, they may have the wiggle room to pick up a Jordan Shipley in the third round, but having no selections between the third and sixth rounds makes that quite a gamble as well.
Maybe Trent Baalke knows something I do not and there will be a cascade of trades tomorrow to pick up a stable of mid-round picks. So far, however, this has been one of the worst drafts I have ever seen!
Could the 49ers have done worse? Sure, but barely.
Picking Jimmy Clausen out of Notre Dame, trading for Ben Roethlisberger (who likely would have cost the 49ers the No. 13 and No. 17 picks and possibly more), picking C.J. Spiller from Clemson, or picking Dez Bryant from Oklahoma State would all have been dumber moves than what Baalke went with tonight.
Then again, three of those four options would not necessarily have cost the 49ers both first round picks and a later pick without addressing defense.
Trent Baalke has a lot of work to do over the weekend to redeem himself in my mind. Hopefully he can.
Since some have apparently missed this:
Since writing this article, it has been brought to my attention that Anthony Davis likely would not have survived the No. 12 pick from Miami. I'm not 100% sold on this opinion, but there's enough corroborating evidence for me to at least think it remiss not to entertain this notion.
Let us assume Miami was on the Anthony Davis train and he would have been gone at No. 12. Let us also assume that there is clear and distinct separation between Anthony Davis and Bryan Bulaga (something I am even more reticent to admit, but willing to entertain).
Given this, and given that Joe Haden and Eric Berry are gone, if you think Davis is better than Earl Thomas (who did not last to 17), go ahead and move up.
I would question whether a fourth round pick was really needed, but if that's what it takes OK. So now you're down your No. 13 and your fourth round pick and your fifth round pick is already gone to Miami. What do you do with No. 17?
Draft an OG? A position of questionable need and an add-on to an already reachy-ish pick at 13/11?
There was somewhat of a rush on DBs, but little interest in Kyle Wilson. With trades shooting off right and left I'm pretty confident the 49ers could have gotten a fifth or fourth rounder back to move from 17 to 25 or so and still taken Wilson. Instead they focused entirely on the O-Line, forcing their hands in the second and possibly third rounds and leaving a huge hole in middle of a deep draft.
Otherwise they could have taken Thomas at 13 and settled for Bulaga at 17 and hung onto the fourth round pick.
To me it still makes little sense.
Let me say that I don't think in any way this sets the 49ers back going into next year. Their needs weren't dire enough to make that true, nor were these particular picks categorically bad. I think the players taken will improve the team and have every hope they wind up being productive for years to come. All I'm saying is that the 49ers could have done much much better in this round (and set themselves up better for later on), they could have done worse, but still could have done better.
Given this new information, I might give Baalke a passing grade at D or D+ (rather than sub-F as before), but I'm still not very impressed. He still has a lot to do in the next couple days to make this a good draft in my book.
Keep the Faith!