The 49ers 2009 draft: Thumbs up & thumbs down

Michael Crabtree: Thumbs up to football heavens

Which way does the thumb turn for the moves the 49ers made on draft weekend, including each of the team's seven draft selections? We give our takes on San Francisco's draft Class of 2009 along with the final verdict on each decision made by the team from beginning to end during the annual college lottery.

Round 1 – WR Michael Crabtree: This pick is an obvious slam dunk. In fact, it's a running-full-speed, 360-degree in the air, windmill spinning reverse double-thunder monster slam dunk. Crabtree will come in and contribute right away. To what degree will be determined by his learning curve and how long it takes him to adjust to the pro game. But the guy is undeniably one of the elite prospects in the draft – perhaps the No. 1 prospect in the entire draft – and the 49ers got him with the 10th overall pick, which is almost thievery for a guy who easily is one of the top five players in the draft without question. This was absolutely the best pick the 49ers could have made with this selection, and how many times can you ever say that about any draft pick?
The verdict: Thumbs up, stretching to the football heavens

Round 2 – 49ers trade away the No. 43 overall selection: We'll buy general manager Scot McCloughan's explanation that there just wasn't worthy value available to the team at this slot and the 49ers will ultimately benefit more from the first-rounder they'll get from the Carolina Panthers in 2010, particularly considering that Carolina has one of the NFL's toughest schedules this season and could be headed for a fall. But the 49ers had two significant needs in the draft this year – offensive tackle and an edge pass rusher – and this was the spot to fill one of those needs with a top prospect. If the 49ers had taken Florida State speed rusher Everette Brown at this spot – an edge rusher projected by some to go among the top 15 overall selections, but ultimately wasn't taken until the Panthers chose him with the No. 43 pick they got from the Niners – fans would have been throwing the 49ers a parade down Tasman Drive near their Santa Clara headquarters for what the team accomplished during the first day of the draft. McCloughan just told us early Sunday evening that the 49ers liked Brown, but he simply wasn't what they were looking for with the value of this slot in the draft, and we respect the GM for his decision and his ability to maneuver and get a premium first-rounder. Still, this selection – whether it be used in a package with other picks to maneuver in the draft – needed to be used on a player that could help the 49ers in the here and now instead of one that might be able to help them in future tomorrows.
The verdict: Thumbs down

Round 3 – RB Glen Coffee: Nothing against Coffee, who looks like a decent enough prospect at running back – and we saw how McCloughan struck gold the last time he drafted a running back in the third round. But running backs with potential similar to Coffee's are all over the place at this point in the draft, and the 49ers could have used this selection on an offensive tackle with potential such as Ball State's Robert Brewster, who went to Dallas on the very next pick. There were also some defensive backs the 49ers could have added here – eight were drafted by other teams before the third round was finished – and that's another spot where it wouldn't have hurt San Francisco to add another prospect with a high pick on draft weekend. There aren't a lot of questions about Coffee's heart and ability, but there are some about his size and speed.
The verdict: Thumbs down

Round 4 – 49ers trade away No. 111 overall selection: OK, so it's getting a little late to find prospects that have a better than hit/miss shot to help the team now and into the future as key contributors, but the Niners still have time to land an OT/DB/Pass rusher that might be able to fill the bill at this spot, right? Wrong. This selection also was traded away to Carolina, packaged with the team's second-rounder to get that 2010 first-rounder from the Panthers. That ought to do the 49ers a whole lot of good when they're looking to improve their team next season, but it doesn't do much this year from a team that might be just a player or two away from making a serious playoff push.
The verdict: Thumbs down

Round 5 – LB Scott McKillop: Our initial reaction after giving McKillop's credentials the quick eye test was there is nothing particularly impressive about this pick, but that changed after closer inspection and what we had to hear around the building today from Niners insiders and other analysts about what this scrappy guy brings to the table. He was ultra-productive at a big-time college program, and while that doesn't always translate to NFL success for an inside linebacker, McKillop is a guy who can get to the football and seems to fit in with what the 49ers are trying to accomplish defensively. He's a sell-out performer who can help on special teams and has potential to eventually be the guy that's lining up regularly next to Patrick Willis in the middle of San Francisco's 3-4 defense. Mel Kiper Jr. rates McKillop as the fifth-best inside linebacker in the draft, and if that turns out to be the case, he's not a bad get at this spot.
The verdict: Thumbs up

Round 5b – QB Nate Davis: Wow. There's not much not to like about landing a quarterback prospect such as Davis this late in the draft with the No. 171 overall selection. There once was talk during the 2008 college season that Davis could be a first-round selection, perhaps even one of the top quarterbacks selected. His stock has plummeted since then for various reasons, but his learning disability doesn't appear to be the impediment some think it will be at the NFL level. Davis has a big arm and several of the characteristics necessary to make it as a starting NFL quarterback. He'll have some time to develop with the 49ers committed to Shaun Hill and Alex Smith this year, and the team will have a chance to see if it has something in Davis by the 2010 season. Plus, it's always good to draft a quarterback for a team that has some lingering uncertainty at the position, and this guy has high value and potential for a late fifth-round prospect. We really like this pick for the 49ers, especially at this spot, and we're sure they do too.
The verdict: Thumbs up

Round 6 – TE Bear Pascoe: This is always a good spot to find backup tight end prospects, and the 49ers got one here that appears to have some upside to not only fill the No. 3 role vacated when Billy Bajema signed with the Rams this month as a free agent, but perhaps be something a little more down the road. The word is that Pascoe has a mean streak in him as a blocker, and his college production as a receiver suggests he can do more than just throw his body around. The 49ers need to replace Bajema, so bringing in this guy at this spot gives them a good young prospect to be given first shot at the role. And besides, you have to love having a guy named Bear on your team, particularly when your head coach is one of the greatest Bears players of them all.
The verdict: Thumbs up

Round 7a – S Curtis Taylor: At this point in the draft, you begin picking up scraps and looking to find gems in the afterthought rubble, but Taylor is another good value selection for the 49ers at this spot, although ideally the team would have landed a safety prospect earlier that could be expected to make an impact on the team. Taylor doesn't come with that expectation, though he is physically and athletically gifted enough to be a NFL player. There are other elements of his game and makeup that need a lot of work, but he's the low-risk, high-reward kind of prospect that can make a team look awfully good for taking him with a seventh-round flyer.
The verdict: Thumbs up

Round 7b – DT Ricky Jean-Francois: You might remember this guy from his eye-popping performance in the 2007 national championship game against Ohio State, when he blocked a field goal and had six tackles – 1.5 behind the line of scrimmage – while earning the game's Defensive MVP honors. Jean-Francois never really built on that performance and displayed little consistency last year, and he's an underdeveloped prospect with holes in his game who's in need of a lot of coaching at the next level to make it as a pro. But the talent is there if the 49ers can dig it out, and he's a guy who can make the roster and contribute in the defensive line rotation if he gets it all together. If you ask some evaluators, Jean-Francois fell to this spot in the draft; if you ask others, it's where he deserves to go. But for the 49ers, with the 244th overall selection in the draft, what was there to lose on a guy who could turn out to be better than his sketchy college career might suggest?
The verdict: Thumbs up

Overall analysis: When asked early Sunday evening who was his favorite pick among San Francisco's seven selections, McCloughan quickly responded, "All of them." Then he added, "No, no seriously. The second day was tremendous. If I would have known it would work this way two months ago, I would say right now I'd take it. I had no idea we'd get these players we got. I'm excited. We got some guys coming in here who can play some football." While that's a typical synopsis of what just about every general manager says after every NFL draft, there was some genuineness in McCloughan's tone and his drafts since joining the 49ers in 2005 are starting to look better over time and have pushed the team to the verge of legitimate contention again. Crabtree obviously will carry this draft class into the 2009 season, and if he can have sudden impact on the team's developing offense, it will go a long way to making the entire draft a success. But there are a few other prospects who might be able to step into defined roles and contribute this year, and others who have a chance to offer the team high reward for a low price. The 49ers whiffed on the top needs of an offensive tackle and edge pass rusher, but you get what you can in the draft, and the 49ers got enough to say McCloughan and Co. did another good job on draft weekend. And then there's that extra first-rounder for 2010, which should only make this draft look better by the time we're typing this same sentence next year.
The verdict: Thumbs up

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