Pundits, perhaps rightly, have lavished praise on 49er personnel honchos and their scouts for the just-completed draft. We love to hype the stars, and, competitive unto obsession, we like to believe our home team can out-draft their NFL counterparts. However, with regard to the 2013 San Francisco draft, another group also deserves vast credit: the 49ers' team medical staff, including trainers, strength-and-conditioning coaches, rehabbers, as well as, decidedly, the deluxe medical crew from Stanford University, with whom the Niners closely consult.
Consider the 49ers' early-draft choices. Eric Reid's shoulders made some teams wary, as did Vance McDonald's past problems with his shoulders. Other teams red-flagged Cornelius Carradine because of his knee. We all know about Marcus Lattimore. Arguably all of these players, but especially so in the cases of Carradine and Lattimore, would have been selected earlier if not for their potential health problems.
Of course, almost all athletes who have played sports from an early age experience various medical setbacks, some major and some merely annoyances, at some point during their careers. However, the preponderance of medical issues among the current batch of 49er early-rounders constitutes a theme for the 2013 draft: players who, after consultation and continuous intense work with medical professionals, may provide extraordinary value once they heal and rehab.
At high levels of achievement, risk abounds in most endeavors. One of the 49ers' currently healthy draftees could step on a rake or sprain his ankle on a faulty stair, as any of us mere mortals might do. Scouts sometimes make mistaken assessments. Personal problems can send players astray. Jim Harbaugh may soon leave to coach the Ravens. Completely risk-free plans, in fact, usually lack boldness. But the 49ers do, despite this unavoidable uncertainty, do their due diligence, both with cutting-edge analytics and state-of-the-art medical prognoses.
Did this medical expertise provide the Niners with an edge? Only in the fullness of time, obviously, as, indeed, with any draft, will we be able to fully judge the 2013 class. Also, a player's mental makeup, as much as his physical attributes, will determine his future prospects. But, in a few years hence, if we see a couple of superb starters, perhaps a pro-bowler, as well as some rotation players from this class, let us not then stint on appreciation for the dedicated medical folks who made the 2013 49ers' draft possible.