After three days of scrutiny and deliberation the 2011 NFL Draft has come to an end, and the San Francisco 49ers have made their selections. Everyone has an opinion on how their respective teams fared, but one of the most respected opinons is that of ESPN's draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. His formula of grading a team's draft is simple. It's based upon how well each team assessed their needs, and how much value they got with their picks. He then averages the two grades for an overall evaluation. Kiper broke down how he felt the Niners did, and gave them an overall grade of a C+. Now, a C+ is a slightly above average grade, but many a Niners fan might not necessarily agree. Here's what Kiper had to say; you be the judge.
You'll hear [Aldon] Smith called the first big reach of Round 1, but he wouldn't have lasted long at all past the No. 7 slot where the Niners nabbed him. And beyond the obvious question at quarterback, an outside linebacker who can rush the quarterback was the biggest position of need for this team, and if Smith continues on his developmental path, he could be a star. Jim Harbaugh found a quarterback he can develop with [Colin] Kaepernick in Round 2, but even with the run on quarterbacks, I saw that as a reach. There's a lot of development needed. San Fran did hit on other top needs at cornerback and wide receiver, and got decent value in [Kendall] Hunter for depth at running back. [Daniel] Kilgore also offers a little more depth at guard. It's all about what happens at quarterback in terms of how we judge the success of the 2011 49ers, but I judge this weekend as a relative success. It's just a small worry when your first two picks both have development requirements.
Needs: B Value: C Overall: C+
I wouldn't necessarily disagree with Kiper's evaluation, but there are a few things I would have to comment on. First of all, I like Aldon Smith, and think Kiper is right to say he wouldn't have lasted much longer if the Niners didn't take him. He is going to be a starter this season, and could be a very skilled one at that. There aren't many rookies that don't have 'development requirements' so I'm not too worried about how Smith will fare in the NFL. As for Colin Kaepernick, I believe he is a work in progress, but not as much work as some people think. He's a big body with speed and has a cannon for an arm; I think he'll be just fine as well. I completely agree with Kiper that the quarterback position will be the litmus test of the 2011 Niners, but that falls on more that just Kaepernick. After all, Alex Smith seems like he will be in the mix again in 2011 for another 'make or break' season, let's see how he does this time around. As for Kendall Hunter and Daniel Kilgore, I think Kiper is spot on with his evaluations there. If either produces more than a little extra depth I think the 49ers would be elated.
If it were me, I'd probably bump their grade up to a B because I felt good about their decisions, but would have given them an A if they could have nabbed an elite cornerback like Prince Amukamara. But there's no need for shoulda, coulda, wouldas, as it's all behind us now. The 49ers should be confident that they made the right choices; I can't wait to see how all the newest 49ers pan out.