49ers 2015 Draft: Aggregating Report Card Grades from Around the Web

Peter Panacy@@PeterPanacyFeatured Columnist IVMay 3, 2015

49ers 2015 Draft: Aggregating Report Card Grades from Around the Web

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    San Francisco's selection of defensive end Arik Armstead in Round 1 received generally positive reviews.
    San Francisco's selection of defensive end Arik Armstead in Round 1 received generally positive reviews.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    All the picks are in from the 2015 NFL draft, and analysts from around the media are summing up their assessments on how each team performed over three days in Chicago.

    The San Francisco 49ers carried nine picks into the draft and ended up selecting 10 players—the full list is provided via the team's official website.

    A full breakdown of the #49ers entire 2015 draft class. VIEW: http://t.co/N7FzlqYHnx pic.twitter.com/JTFQcRTuJk

    — San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) May 3, 2015

    General manager Trent Baalke's list of picks is as follows:

    1. DE Arik Armstead, Oregon
    2. S Jaquiski Tartt, Samford
    3. DE/OLB Eli Harold, Virginia
    4. TE Blake Bell, Oklahoma
    5. RB Mike Davis, South Carolina
    6. WR DeAndre Smelter, Georgia Tech
    7. P Bradley Pinion, Clemson
    8. OL Ian Silberman, Boston College
    9. T Trenton Brown, Florida
    10. TE Rory Anderson, South Carolina

    So what are these expert analysts saying about the 49ers' picks and Baalke's draft class as a whole? Are their assessments correct and are their analyses encompassing every aspect behind the selections made?

    Let's take a look.


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    NFL Network's Mike Mayock accurately predicted the 49ers' first pick with DE Arik Armstead.
    NFL Network's Mike Mayock accurately predicted the 49ers' first pick with DE Arik Armstead.Doug McSchooler/Associated Press

    Bryan Fischer: B-

    NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock correctly mocked the 49ers' first selection in the 2015 draft. His analysis—along with those of NFL.com's Charles Davis and Charley Casserly—tabbed defensive end Arik Armstead to the 49ers at No. 15 overall.

    The only difference was San Francisco dropping down two picks in Round 1 to select Armstead.

    "His length and power are both amazing," Mayock wrote after the selection. "He's a perfect scheme fit for the 49ers as a five-technique, which means he's a defensive end in a 3-4 defense. He's so young and inexperienced, but the sky is the limit."

    Armstead is a work in progress, but the 49ers are hoping that they can turn his massive 6'7", 292-pound frame into something exceptional.

    But what of NFL.com's overall grade for San Francisco?

    Bryan Fischer of NFL.com gave the 49ers an A-minus grade for Day 1. This was followed by a B-plus grade and C-grade for Days 2 and 3, respectively. Overall, Fischer gave San Francisco a B-minus for its efforts during the draft. 

    Fischer wrote:

    GM Trent Baalke likes to move around in the draft, and Thursday he managed to move back just a few spots and land a number of quality selections on Day 3. On top of that, the 49ers landed one of the most versatile defensive linemen available in Armstead, who can develop into a dominant player. Tartt has plenty of upside at safety and will help support the run in a division where run defense is essential. Harold had first-round talent, but the 49ers were able to get him in the third. Davis can help fill the hole Frank Gore left behind. Smelter has obvious upside given his measurables. Punters are people, too, but using a fifth-round pick on one was questionable.

    Fischer accurately describes some of the questionable moves made in the latter rounds of the draft. Drafting a punter in Round 5 is odd at best even though Baalke may be looking to get younger and cheaper at this position.

    The assessments of Tartt, Harold, Davis and Smelter are also reasonable, and the 49ers did land each of these prospects with good value. But spending a first-round pick on a work-in-progress prospect like Armstead overlooks the thought that most teams seek an immediate contributor in Round 1.

CBS Sports

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    CBS Sports' Rob Rang recognized that defensive end Arik Armstead comes with a risk pertaining to his development.
    CBS Sports' Rob Rang recognized that defensive end Arik Armstead comes with a risk pertaining to his development.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Rob Rang: C+

    CBS Sports NFL draft analyst Rob Rang was a little more practical describing San Francisco's top selections in the draft.

    Rang admits that Armstead is a work in progress and will require some inspiration in order to reach his true potential. Rang also touts the selections of Tartt and Harold.

    The operative word with Armstead is upside as he's just starting to realize his own potential. I'm not convinced he's hungry enough to be great, but the energetic Jim Tomsula could be exactly what Armstead needs. I like the physicality of small school safety Jaquiski Tartt and the burst upfield of edge rusher Eli Harold.

    But Rang also questions selections like that of Bell and points out that Smelter may be set back from his torn ACL. Most importantly, Rang stresses the need for quarterback Colin Kaepernick to move the ball in 2015.

    Fellow CBS Sports analyst Pete Prisco also noted the risk associated with Armstead, but he gave the selection a B-plus grade and noted that he thought the former Oregon defender could reach his potential.

    Yet Prisco was not excited about the third-round selection of Harold. Prisco gave the pick a D-grade and stated that Harold was not "tough enough." But Prisco had previously mocked Harold going as the No. 20 pick overall, so there is a little bit of a contradiction there when considering value.

    Prisco may be incorrect about Harold. The 49ers needed pass-rushing help, and Harold provided excellent value in Round 3 considering he could have gone in the first round.

    Rang's assessment is a little more accurate. Kaepernick will need to be the linchpin of the offense, and Trent Baalke didn't surround him with enough immediate-impact weapons in the draft.


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    OLB Eli Harold has the best chance to start in 2015 according to SI.com's Doug Farrar.
    OLB Eli Harold has the best chance to start in 2015 according to SI.com's Doug Farrar.Doug McSchooler/Associated Press

    Doug Farrar: B-

    SI.com's Doug Farrar pointed out one thing that almost every 49ers fan now knows—this is general manager Trent Baalke's team. 

    Despite some of Baalke's draft successes in recent years, Farrar believes that San Francisco's GM has yet to produce enough legitimate starters for his tenure. There may be some truth to this considering the high investments given to players like defensive end Tank Carradine, defensive back Jimmie Ward, running back Carlos Hyde and linebacker Corey Lemonier.

    "The 49ers seem to understand that their current rebuilding process will take a while, but Baalke needs to improve his hit rate—and soon," Farrar wrote.

    The jury is still out on Ward—who missed a sizable chunk of his rookie season due to injury—and the selection of defensive end/outside linebacker Harold might signify the end of Lemonier in San Francisco.

    But Carradine and Hyde should see vastly increased roles in 2015 given the team's turnover. If there is something Farrar misses here, it's the notion that Baalke doesn't hesitate to draft for a year or two down the line.

    Farrar has a better assessment about many of the other selections though:

    Arik Armstead is a freak athlete but is so raw that even head coach Jim Tomsula admitted his new top guy will take some time to adjust. Second-round safety Jaquiski Tartt from Samford was a Senior Bowl sensation, but with Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid in that secondary already, one wonders where Tartt will play. Third-round pass rusher Eli Harold from Virginia may have the best chance to get serious reps right away with his combination of speed and strength. Watch also for Deandre Smelter, a big receiver out of Georgia Tech who should get a good look once he recovers from last December's knee injury.

    Like many analysts, Farrar realizes that Armstead will take some work. Farrar also touts Harold as an excellent selection who can contribute soon. And Smelter could have a great upside following his recovery.

    The questions surrounding Tartt are interesting, though. While Farrar is correct about Tartt being slated behind safeties Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea, he fails to note that Reid has a concussion history and that Bethea—who will turn 31 in July—may be gone after this season according to James Brady of Niners Nation.

SB Nation

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    Dan Kadar of SB Nation questioned the selection of former Samford safety Jaquiski Tartt.
    Dan Kadar of SB Nation questioned the selection of former Samford safety Jaquiski Tartt.Dave Martin/Associated Press

    SB Nation: C+

    Dan Kadar of SB Nation questioned some of the 49ers' moves throughout the draft and focused primarily on Baalke's Round 2 selection of Tartt.

    Kadar wondered why Baalke used yet another high pick on a hybrid safety instead of a "true cornerback." The 49ers selected safety/nickel back Jimmie Ward in Round 1 of the 2014 draft.

    As stated previously, Tartt is likely meant to be veteran safety Bethea's replacement. Additionally, Tartt has a physical edge and intimidating presence that has largely been absent since the free-agent departure of safety Donte Whitner prior to the 2014 season.

    Aside from that, Kadar was largely supportive of the picks themselves:

    This was a very 49ers draft where they looked more toward the future than this season. San Francisco's rebuild on defense was a necessity, but there are still some questions there, namely at inside linebacker and cornerback. Armstead has the potential to be a good player, but will he get there? The fits of Harold and Tartt are good, and they could make a bigger impact early in their careers. If Davis pans out, he could be a solid pro. He runs with good vision but battled injuries last season. Anderson was a good seventh-round pick. He should push to be the third tight end on the 49ers roster if he's willing to play special teams.

    But Kadar's concerns over the lack of attention given to the linebacker and cornerback positions are worth examining.

    Perhaps Baalke is comfortable enough with San Francisco's current crop of cornerbacks. Veteran defensive backs Tramaine Brock, Chris Cook and Shareece Wright have multiple years of experience. Second-year pros Ward, Dontae Johnson, Kenneth Acker and Keith Reaser are still developing.

    Will they be enough, however?

    More importantly, San Francisco did very little to address the losses of linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland. The free-agent acquisition of linebacker Philip Wheeler helps supplement the depth, but a long-term backup would have been nice here.


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    GM Trent Baalke drew most of the criticism from ESPN's Paul Gutierrez.
    GM Trent Baalke drew most of the criticism from ESPN's Paul Gutierrez.Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    Paul Gutierrez: Thumbs-Down

    ESPN 49ers analyst Paul Gutierrez didn't necessarily assign a grade to San Francisco's 2015 draft class, but he certainly wasn't complimentary of the 49ers' selections.

    Gutierrez wrote:

    The Niners overcompensated on defense and at tight end while not addressing cornerback after losing both starters to free agency. It must mean GM Trent Baalke, who spent four picks on defensive backs last year, likes his current roster so much that he did not care to draft for need. Rather, he went with his board. Need, you would think, would come into play in the later rounds. It did not. The issue last season, then, if you’re extrapolating, was with coaching, not talent on the roster. Therefore the problem is gone, and coaching now in Michigan, the thinking goes.

    Like Dan Kadar of SB Nation on the previous slide, Gutierrez stressed the need for Trent Baalke to solidify the cornerback position via this year's draft. But Baalke might be happy with the current crop of corners—many of whom have yet to fully develop.

    Drafting the best player available is never a bad idea, but it's also easy to question this route in the 49ers' context after they tabbed punter Pinion in Round 5. 

    But Gutierrez does have a point about targeting multiple tight ends. This isn't to say that San Francisco doesn't have a need here. Tight end Vernon Davis, who struggled last season, is entering a contract year, and No. 2 TE Vance McDonald has yet to solidify his role as a pass-catcher.

    Baalke's picks of tight ends Bell (Round 4) and Anderson (Round 7) could be used for competition purposes or to signify that the 49ers have little confidence in TEs McDonald, Derek Carrier or Garrett Celek.

    "Draftwise, though, it wasn't exactly a success," Gutierrez wrote. 

    Will Gutierrez's assessment be proven correct? Training camp will eventually reveal a more accurate answer.

Bleacher Report

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    Peter Panacy: C+

    I'll get to my draft assessments in a moment, but first let's take a look at some of the analysis provided by Bleacher Report NFL draft analyst Matt Miller.

    Miller had accurately predicted Armstead to the 49ers in Round 1. And Miller wasn't critical of the selection, either.

    49ers drafted my No. 16 overall player at No. 17 and got two extra picks. Not a bad pick at all. https://t.co/6ghkR2UYU9

    — Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) May 1, 2015

    The 49ers' selection of safety Jaquiski Tartt in Round 2 also drew hope and praise from Miller.

    Really want Tartt to the 49ers

    — Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) May 2, 2015

    “He’s a big-hitter," Miller said via 49ers.com. "He is aggressive, violent and versatile. He can play free safety or strong safety. I saw him do that at Samford. You might be thinking, 'Oh well it’s a small school, doesn’t matter.' But he did it at the Senior Bowl too."

    Miller was also willing to praise some of the other selections made by Trent Baalke.

    Eli Harold is a BPA pick in San Francisco. I had him late Rd 1.

    — Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) May 2, 2015

    Here's where I'd roll the dice on Blake Bell, 49ers. Wait for a RB.

    — Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) May 2, 2015

    Love the Mike Davis pick for the 49ers.

    — Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) May 2, 2015

    Ok Niners let's go get Smelter.

    — Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) May 2, 2015

    Miller is obviously happy with many of the 49ers' picks especially when considering value and long-term potential (Armstead, Smelter, etc.).

    But I felt that there were a few things lacking from Baalke's efforts in 2015. Aside from using edge-rusher Eli Harold in pass-rushing packages, there isn't a legitimate impact player that can come in and provide an immediate boost right away.

    Players like Armstead, Bell, Smelter and Tartt aren't going to be No. 1 on their respective depth charts any time soon.

    I'll reserve judgment on Armstead for now. While the pick doesn't come across as a phenomenal one, Armstead's ceiling cannot be ignored, either.

    The overemphasis on the tight end position, the selection of a punter in Round 5 and the lack of an inside linebacker prospect also raise serious questions. Had the 49ers taken an inside linebacker in Round 4 instead of Bell—linebacker Ramik Wilson would have been nice—the final draft grade would have been that much better.

    True, Baalke has no qualms about drafting for the long-term future rather than immediate need. Early selections on players like defensive end Carradine and running back Hyde (Round 2 picks from 2013 and 2014, respectively) signify this.

    But the 49ers have yet to reap the full rewards of each of those two selections, and San Francisco is dangerously close to risking the same results from much of its 2015 class.

    Carradine and Hyde do have high ceilings and could prove Baalke right. That's the hope. 

    And one should also hope that Baalke got it right with many of the picks selected this year. Perhaps he did and will look back a year or so from now and say, "I told you so."

    Until that point, many Niners fans are going to continue scratching their heads.

    All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com and Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated. Supplemental draft information courtesy of CBS Sports.

    Peter Panacy is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the San Francisco 49ers. Be sure to check out his entire archive on 49ers news, insight and analysis.

    Follow him @PeterPanacy on Twitter. 


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