The 49ers traded up to get the quarterback new head coach Jim Harbaugh wanted most in Nevada's Colin Kaepernick.
One last look at the San Francisco 49ers' 2011 draft class shows they got the quarterback they most wanted and...not much else in the way of sure-fire impact players.
First-round pick Aldon Smith climbed draft boards late, but remains the result of owning a seventh overall pick that should have had some value in trade.
Here's a report card:
Aldon Smith, outside linebacker, Missouri
Since I had the 49ers drafting a pass-rusher in my last mock draft, I find the selection of Smith understandable. He didn't get the pre-draft attention that North Carolina's Robert Quinn got, but he is a more imposing athlete at 6'5", 260 pounds and drew late, rave reviews from NFL Network's Michael Lombardi, who actually had the 49ers taking Smith at No. 7 in his final mock draft.
Smith's stock was rising while others' was falling. Quinn was suspended and didn't play last season. Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers is coming off microfracture knee surgery. Smith comes with no red flags and no health issues. Since the opportunity to trade down didn't present itself, getting the monstrous, athletic pass-rusher in a draft filled with suitable cornerbacks is fine.
If the 49ers could've traded down and gotten cornerback Jimmy Smith and, say, Bowers much later—then maybe question the pick. They got the most athletic, healthiest guy to fill their biggest need.
Colin Kaepernick, quarterback, Nevada
Jim Harbaugh's the new head coach. He comes with a record of mentoring quality quarterbacks and running a creative pass-run offense. Harbaugh wanted Kaepernick above all other quarterbacks—so, it's foolish to question Harbaugh. He knows more about what he needs in his quarterback of the future than I do...or than you do...or than Mel Kiper Jr. does. Honest.
TCU's Andy Dalton was overrated by draft time. And I'm not going to knock the pick of Kaepernick simply because I would think Ryan Mallett or Ricky Stanzi would've been better fits for Harbaugh's offense. It's Harbaugh's offense and he wanted Kaepernick.
Kaepernick's a Northern California guy from Turlock who was mentored in high school and during collegiate offseasons by former Cal head coach Roger Theder.
Theder told me on Saturday, "He's a tough sonuvabitch. The kid is going to make it in the NFL." They filled a need and traded up to No. 36 to get the quarterback Harbaugh wanted.
Chris Culliver, cornerback, South Carolina
NFL history is littered with failed corners who couldn't convert college stardom to professional success. Great, yet unheralded athletes, routinely emerge as consistent NFL cornerbacks. Culliver's an outstanding athlete who hasn't played much corner. I'll take the outstanding athlete over the guy who starred at corner in college—especially at No. 80 overall.
Kendall Hunter, running back, Oklahoma State
He's a big-time running back from a big-time program in a big-time conference. So they got an impact player with the 115th overall pick. He's not very big, but he'll fit immediately into Harbaugh's offense as a runner and receiver. He'll make a big, positive impact from the start.
Daniel Kilgore, center/guard, Appalachian State
OK, everyone with insight into the projected future of any player out of Appalachian State raise your hand.
Nobody? OK. Good.
Kilgore's a guard who'll learn to play center for the 49ers. He has the size for it at 6'3", 308 pounds.
Ronald Johnson, wide receiver, USC
There were still bigger, faster receivers available. Getting a slot receiver who can return kicks out of a pro football factory like USC—with the 182nd overall pick, was a safe bet.
Colin Jones, safety, TCU
Look, if somebody claims the 49ers missed a sure-fire impact player with the 190th pick, they're lying! Jones is super fast and he can play special teams in an NFL where it's impossible to have too many DBs who are faster than fast.
Mike Person, center-guard, Montana State
Small college offensive linemen seem to transition pretty well to the NFL. The guy's 6'4.5", 299 pounds, and he'll play center and guard. There were bigger names available here but Person has shown ability to help a team that always seems to need healthy o-linemen.
Bruce Miller, fullback, Central Florida
So, with the 211th overall pick the 49ers take a defensive end they'll turn into a fullback. Well, they'll make him a fullback if they don't move him to outside linebacker. He's a great athlete at 6'1", 248 pounds. Credit the club for going with a versatile athlete when it was probably tempting to draft a name player from a big school.
Curtis Holcomb, cornerback, Florida A&M
Yeah, sure...they grabbed a little CB from a tiny school with the 250th overall pick and 49ers fans are fuming? There were better players available? At No. 250? Come on! It's a crap shoot in the last round. They grabbed a tiny corner (Phillip Adams) from a tiny school (South Carolina State) in this slot last year, too. Do it often enough and they'll get a real talent eventually.
The 49ers got the quarterback they wanted and the pass-rusher who was soaring up draft boards with their first selection. They could've done more than draft project players they hope can learn positions, though, so the grade for the draft class becomes acceptable largely because they landed a good running back in the middle rounds.
Overall draft grade: B-