The San Francisco 49ers have made it to the Super Bowl, and it couldn’t have possibly had any less to do with the players they drafted this year. They didn’t have a whole lot of picks, and the picks they did ultimately make didn’t get much in the way of playing time. If any. In an age where third round draft picks can suddenly become franchise quarterbacks, Jim Harbaugh still believes in a crazy little concept called developing players before putting them on the field. It’s why Colin Kaepernick has become such a dynamic star.
So, about that draft…
1st Round, 30th Overall, WR A.J. Jenkins: Probably the least used of any first round draft picks; I still think this one has the potential to be great in the long term, though. As for now, he’s more or less a distraction on the field. An extra guy to cover. Even with two receivers going on IR, Harbaugh refuses to make Jenkins part of the game plan. He was inactive for most of the season but has made his way onto the roster for the playoffs. Where he still does nothing.
Final Grade: B-
2nd Round, 61st Overall, RB LaMichael James: Their best pick of the draft, and possibly the steal of the second round. I had been calling for this guy to get more playing time all season long, and following an injury to Kendall Hunter he finally got it. He hasn’t disappointed. He even scored a touchdown in yesterday’s Super Bowl appearance securing victory. He is fast and has the ability to contribute on special teams and as a change of pace back.
Final Grade: A-
4th Round, 117th Overall, OG/C Joe Looney: Inactive for most of the season, but still projects to eventually develop into a starter. Only problem is Alex Boone keeps playing so well. A solid draft pick, who offers versatility with his ability to play center as well as guard.
Final Grade: C+
5th Round, 165th Overall, OLB Darius Fleming: Didn’t get much playing time, and not projected to develop into a starter. Good athlete who can maybe contribute on special teams or as a depth player next season. Also inactive for most of this one.
Final Grade: D
6th Round, 180th Overall, S Trenton Robinson: Kind of odd that this 6th rounder received more playing time than almost every other pick. Of course, almost all of his playing time was on special teams but still, it’s playing time. Unfortunately for Robinson, that is probably where he will make his career.
Final Grade: C-
6th Round, 199th Overall, C Jason Slowey: A reach even at the 6th round, he now plays for the Oakland Raiders. To the practice squad. Didn’t like the pick to begin with, but the fact that he didn’t even last with the team until September says a lot.
Final Grade: F
7th Round, 237th Overall, OLB Cam Johnson: Only active for two games all season, so not a whole lot to report on. Can maybe become a depth or special teams contributor for the Niners sometime in the future. Not all that great in the pass rush, which does come in handy if you’re playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
Final Grade: D
There seemed to be one consistent theme with this year’s Niners draft class: hardly any playing time. It’s hard to evaluate that which you don’t see, but I tried my best. It would probably be more suiting of me to review this class by the end of next year, but oh well. At least one of these guys is now a consistent contributor, in LaMichael James. I expect A.J. Jenkins isn’t far behind him in terms of development, so you’ll probably see a lot more of him next season.
Final Grade: C
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV