When a team achieves some success, there is typically some desire from less successful teams to emulate them. With the success of the 49ers over the past two seasons, it is common to hear "we should do _______ like the 49ers".
I was interested to see exactly what the 49ers have done over the past few seasons. In 2005 they were in a position similar to us, being the worst team in the league and selecting a QB with the #1 overall pick. It took another 7 seasons before they returned to the playoffs. Now after eight seasons, they are playing for the ultimate prize. Let's take a look at how the 49ers have used their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round "building-block" picks since selecting Alex Smith #1 overall in 2005.
*denotes current starter
1 Alex Smith, QB Utah
2 David Baas, C Michigan- gone
3 Frank Gore, RB Miami*
3 Adam Snyder, G Oregon- gone
1 Vernon Davis, TE Maryland*
1 Manny Lawson, LB NC State- gone
3 Brandon Williams, WR Wisconsin- gone
1 Patrick Willis, LB Mississppi*
1 Joe Staley, OT Central Michigan*
3 Jason Hill, WR Washington State- gone
3 Ray McDonald, DE Florida*
1 Kentwan Balmer, DT NC- gone
2 Chilo Patal, G Southern Cal- gone
3 Reggie Smith, S Oklahoma- gone
1 Michael Crabtree, WR Texas Tech*
3 Glenn Coffee, RB Alabama- gone
1 Anthony Davis, OT Rutgers*
1 Mike Iupati, G Idaho*
2 Taylor Mays, S Southern Cal- gone
3 NaVorro Bowman, LB Penn St*
1 Aldon Smith, DE Missouri*
2 Kolin Kaepernick, QB Nevada*
3 Chris Culliver, CB South Carolina
1 AJ Jenkins, WR Illinois
2 LaMichael James, RB Oregon
The first thing that stands out is the sheer number of high picks the 49ers have owned. They have had two first-round picks a whopping three times in the last eight years (with some help from the Panthers). Conversely while the Panthers have had one year with two first-round picks, they also went the next two consecutive years without any. Additionally the Panthers traded away their 2011 2nd round pick. This pick ended up being #33 overall, causing the team to miss out on an additional "first round" talent. The 49ers have not had to go a year recently without a first rounder, despite being able to obtain several additional first round picks.
In the past eight drafts the 49ers have had eleven first-round picks, compared to the Panthers' seven over that same stretch of time. The rich keep getting richer. They already own our 3rd rounder next year, and our 7th rounder in 2014. Through various trades last year they have accrued four extra picks in this year's draft even before the compensatory picks are awarded. We come into this April's draft with five picks. They already have eleven.
From the above, you can see several of their picks have been misses. No team hits on all of their picks, something we should remember for the Panthers. Several guys are no longer with the team, though they now play for other teams. This shows a willingness to part with guys they have drafted, though they may have been good enough to keep on the team. How do all of these things correlate with their current starters on their NFC championship team?
2012 Starters Offense
WR Michael Crabtree (1st Round 2009)
LT Joe Staley (1st Round 2007)
LG Mike Iupati (1st Round 2010)
C Jonathan Goodwin (2011 free agent, 2002 5th Rounder)
RG Alex Boone (UDFA 2009)
RT Anthony Davis (1st Round 2010)
TE Vernon Davis (1st Round 2006)
WR Randy Moss (free agent acquistion 2012, 1998 1st Rounder)
FB Bruce Miller (7th Round 2011)
RB Frank Gore (1st Round 2005)
QB Colin Kapernick (2nd Round 2011)
QB: Alex Smith (1st Round 2005)
WR: Ted Ginn, Jr (FA acquisition, former 1st Rounder), AJ Jenkins (1st Round 2012)
RB: LaMicheal James (2nd Round 2012)
2012 Starters Defense
LDT: Ray McDonald (3rd Round 2007)
NT: Isaac Sopoaga (4th Round 2004)
RDT: Justin Smith (free agent from Bengals 2008, 2001 4th rounder)
OLB: Ahmad Brooks (claimed off waivers from Bengals in 2008, 3rd rounder 2006 supplemental draft)
ILB: NaVorro Bowman (3rd Round 2010)
ILB: Patrick Willis (1st Round 2007)
OLB: Aldon Smith (1st Round 2011)
RCB: Tarell Brown (5th Round 2007)
LCB: Carlos Rogers (free agent acquisition 2011, former 1st Rounder 2005, 1x Pro Bowler)
SS: Donte Whitner (free agent acquisition 2011, 1st Round 2006, 1x Pro Bowler)
FS: Dashon Goldson (4th Round 2007, 2x Pro Bowler)
Out of 11 starters on offense, 7 were first rounders at some point! That's pretty amazing. Of the rest, one is the fullback. Kapernick is a second rounder, though at #36 overall he was very close to being a first rounder. Then you have the right guard and center, the two "less premier" positions on the O-line. Randy Moss is the only starter who was not drafted by the team. For comparison, the Panthers when healthy start 4 first rounders on offense, along with two second rounders. Their first back-up at RB is also a first rounder. The 49ers also have 3 former first rounders and a second rounder in back-up roles.
I was surprised to find that on their elite defense, the 49ers only have two first rounders drafted by them. Then they also have signed two former first rounders from other teams as free agents, but both of those players are in the secondary. Their vaunted 3-4 D-line is made up of a signed free agent, a third rounder, and a fourth rounder. Despite the emphasis seeming to be on their front 7, their secondary is actually quite accomplished. They specifically targeted talented guys for the secondary in free agency.
I did not expect to find that the strength of the 49ers drafting is in their offense. This goes against a common perception that the 49ers heavily invested high draft picks into their defensive line. The strength of their defense comes from free agent signings, and solid/great play from their mid-round guys. Then their two first-round stars (Willis and A. Smith) bring home the bacon for the team. But as witnessed last week, when the defense is down early, the offense is talented enough to bring them back.
"So I shouldn't have traded away those picks for Everette Brown and Armanti?" - Marty Hurney
If the Panthers wish to emmulate the 49ers, the take home message overall is...
-Make heavy early investments into your skilled positions on offense
-Make heavy early investments into your offensive line
-Know when to let guys you have drafted go (Which is why we now have Gettleman instead of Hurney)
-Bring in great free agents to supplement the team (Which is why we now have Gettleman instead of Hurney)
-Get extra early draft picks as much as you can. Don't give them up. They are key building blocks for your team, even allowing you to strengthen depth. (Another reason why Hurney is no longer employed by the Panthers)
-Be patient? After all, it did take 7 years for them to make the playoffs...
I got Cam bi*****!
Thanks for reading...your thoughts?