NFL Draft: The San Francisco 49ers and Top 10 Draft Busts of the Last 20 Years
From 1981 to 1998, the San Francisco 49ers won five Super Bowls, appeared in the NFC title game 10 times, and won 14 division titles.
In that time span, the 49ers were able to successfully make the smooth transition from Joe Montana to Steve Young, from Dwight Clark and Freddie Solomon to Jerry Rice and John Taylor. From Russ Francis to Brent Jones. From Bill Walsh to George Seifert.
The 49ers were in every sense of the word, the single greatest franchise in football history since the beginning of the Super Bowl era. No team in NFL History has had the kind of run the 49ers had in almost two full decades.
Most critics credited the 49ers strong drafts in building their dynasty. For every successful pick they made, the 49ers had just as many misses. For every Terrell Owens (3rd round 1996 Draft), there was a Rashaun Woods (1st round 2004 Draft).
Here is the list of the top 10 San Francisco 49er draft busts of the past 20 years.
No. 10 JJ Stokes, WR
By any other measure, JJ Stokes had a nice career with the 49ers.
Averaging 41 catches a year for about 500 yards, JJ Stokes was a nice, complementary No. 3 wide receiver to Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, and later on, Tai Streets.
His single best season came in 1998 when he set career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns, but his biggest contribution might have been the final drive of the 1998 NFC Wild Card game against the Green Bay Packers.
Stokes caught the first two passes of the drive that eventually led to the famous Terrell Owens catch to beat Green Bay 30-27. One play before Owen's historical catch, Stokes kept the 49er drive alive by successfully defending what would otherwise have been an interception by Packer defensive back Craig Newsome.
Stokes however wasn't a late sixth or seventh round pick, he was the No. 10 overall pick in the first round of the 1995 Draft. Hurt his first season, JJ never blossomed into what the 49ers first imagined he would be when they drafted him, a star studded go-to wide receiver.
No. 9 Todd Kelly, LB
Todd Kelly, the 27th overall pick in the first round of the 1993 NFL Draft, also happened to be the University of Tennessee's second all-time sack leader behind Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White.
In two seasons with the 49ers, Kelly had a grand total of 22 tackles and 4.5 sacks, never panning out into the premiere pass rusher the 49ers envisioned.
Although he was part of the 1994 Super Bowl champion 49ers, by 1995 Kelly was playing with the Bengals and by 1997 was done in the NFL.
To add injury to insult, 13 picks after Kelly was taken in the draft, the New York Giants selected defensive end Michael Strahan, who set a NFL record with 22.5 sacks in 2001 and finished his career with 141.5 sacks, good enough for fifth all time.
No. 8 R.W. McQuarters, CB
The 28th overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, the 49ers drafted corner back R.W. McQuarters, who was a triple threat at Oklahoma State University where he played wide receiver, cornerback and kick returner.
Stuck on the depth chart, McQuarters was mostly used as a nickle and dime corner on defense and was the primary kick returner for the 49ers.
In two seasons, McQuarters had one interception and one kick return for a touchdown and by 2000 was playing in Chicago.
McQuarters made the game-winning interception against the Dallas Cowboys during the 2007 Divisional Playoffs and was part of the New York Giants team that upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
No. 7 Kwame Harris, OT
Wanting to groom a franchise offensive tackle, the 49ers landed Kwame Harris from the University of Stanford with the 26th overall pick in the first round of the 2003 Draft.
Originally a right offensive tackle, Kwame was moved to left tackle, being groomed to be a franchise player and bring stability to the line and blind side.
Harris also happened to be the first offensive lineman taken by the 49ers in the first round since Harris Barton, who went on to play 11 seasons and win three Super Bowls.
Harris was moved back to the right offensive tackle spot in 2005 after the 49ers signed Jonas Jennings from Buffalo.
Harris never really found his footing and instead was better known for getting pushed around, beat to the corner, and holding penalties.
To his credit however, Harris started every single game of the 2006 season in which running back Frank Gore ran for a team record 1,695 yards.
By 2007, Harris was surpassed on the depth chart and signed with the Oakland Raiders prior to the start of the 2008 season. One year later, Harris was released, never playing in an NFL game again.
No. 6 Mike Rumph, CB
It was said that while playing at the University of Miami, cornerback Mike Rumph was never beaten for a touchdown pass.
The fourth corner taken in the first round of the 2002 Draft, Rumph was a big, solid cover corner who could tackle. At 6'2", Rumph was paired opposite of fellow first round pick, Ahmed Plummer, giving the 49ers two top cover corners.
Instead, Rumph was constantly picked on over and over, and in his first NFL game was scored on.
Despite being a solid tackler (89 in his first two seasons), Rumph was too slow to cover smaller and speedier wide receivers, and instead was moved to safety.
He is best remembered for his big hit in 2005 on ex-49er receiver Terrell Owens who was playing for the Philadelphia Eagles at the time.
Rumph was traded to the Washington Redskins before the start of the 2006 season and by 2008, retired from the NFL.
No. 5 Reggie McGrew, DT
After 49ers defensive tackle Bryant Young broke his leg during the 1998 season, the 49ers were unsure if their force in middle would ever be the same.
Needing a defensive tackle to groom or replace Young, the 49ers selected Reggie McGrew from the University of Florida 24th overall in the 1999 draft.
Considered to be a solid run stopping defensive tackle, Reggie McGrew was part of the 1996 national champion Florida Gators team.
McGrew was highly regarded as a solid defensive tackle who could have used another season at school.
After missing the entire 1999 season to an arm injury, McGrew returned in 2000 and by 2001 was done with the 49ers. Two full seasons, 10 tackles and a sack.
No. 4 Jim Druckenmiller, QB
Following the departure of backup quarterback Elvis Grbac, the 49ers were eyeing to groom a young quarterback to eventually take over for Steve Young.
During the 1995 and 1996 seasons, Young missed a total of nine games with a variety of injuries that included two concussions in three weeks and surgery on his throwing shoulder.
Immediate fan consensus was that the 49ers couldn't pass on Arizona State quarterback and Joe Montana clone Jake Plummer.
Plummer, who like Montana wore No. 16, had the mobility and coolness that reminded many of Joe Cool.
Instead, the 49ers took Virginia Tech quarterback Jim Druckenmiller. The pick was met with confusion and instant questioning of the front office and their decision making.
Druckenmiller was a gun-slinging pocket passer resembling nothing what the 49ers and their West Coast offense represented, which was mobility, accuracy, and a timing offense, everything that Jake Plummer offered.
Despite winning his first ever NFL start in Week 2 of the 1997 season, Druckenmiller was traded by the 49ers to the Dolphins before the start of the 1999 season. Plummer on the other hand lead the Arizona Cardinals to their first playoff win in 51 years in 1998.
No. 3 Rashaun Woods, WR
The 2003 49ers were in a rebuilding state. Following the release of quarterback Jeff Garcia, running back Garrison Hearst and wide receiver Terrell Owens, the 49ers needed a receiver to complement quarterback Tim Rattay, who would take over the starting job.
The 2004 Draft offered one of the deepest wide receiving classes in recent memory as seven receivers were drafted in the first round.
Holding the No. 16 overall pick and losing out on Larry Fitzgerald, Roy Williams, Reggie Williams, Michael Clayton and Lee Evans, the 49ers traded back twice and finally selected Rashaun Woods No. 31 overall in the first round.
Woods, a two-time All-American at Oklahoma State set Big 12 records in catches, yards and touchdowns and once caught seven touchdown passes in a game.
In the NFL, Woods played all of one season, hauling in seven passes for 160 yards and one touchdown.
No. 2 Giovanni Carmazzi, QB
Entering the 2000 NFL Draft, the 49ers were in desperate need to file holes in a team riddled with injuries, none bigger than the loss of quarterback Steve Young.
With Jeff Garcia, an ex-Canadian Football League player as the only viable option at QB, the 49ers were going to select a quarterback in the 2000 NFL draft, the only question was when and who.
The idea situation was to take the smart, accurate, agile, and mentally strong Chad Pennington, from Marshall. Pennington was widely considered to be the most NFL ready quarterback of the draft.
The divide was split between Pennington and Hofstra gunslinger Giovanni Carmazzi, who many considered to be the more interesting of the two prospects.
Carmazzi was considered to be a hidden gem from the University of Hofstra, where under the spread offense, he would go on to set numerous school records.
The 49ers passed on Pennington and instead took Carmazzi 65th overall in the third round.
Not only did Carmazzi never attempt a single throw in the NFL, but the 49ers also passed on a fellow 49er fan and California native who went 134 picks later to the New England Patriots.
No. 1 Kentwan Balmer, DE
Entering the 2008 NFL Draft, the consensus fan favorite for the 49ers was California wide receiver and Los Angeles native DeSean Jackson.
Jackson had the goods; he could catch, run, and return both punts and kickoffs. He was the perfect pick for the 49ers who lacked any real down field threat.
Instead, in all their infinite wisdom, the 49ers selected North Carolina defensive end Kentwan Balmer with the 29th pick in the first round. The same draft team that in three consecutive seasons hit with running back Frank Gore, tight end Vernon Davis and linebacker Patrick Willis horribly missed with Balmer.