Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports



The year was 2007, and the San Francisco 49ers were knee deep in the worst offensive season in the team's illustrious history. Set back by a bad scheme, a poor line and underwhelming quarterback play, the Niners finished last in the league in points scored (with 219) for the first time in the modern era.

Fast forward to 2015, and it seems as if history is repeating itself. The 2015 version of the offense is equally as terrible, and also looks like it's going to finish last in points scored (their total of 202 is currently 39 behind the St. Louis Rams for 31st place).

There was one difference between the '07 version and '15 version though, and that was the young talent that was still learning how to be successful in the NFL. You see, back then, the Niners had building blocks in place with a couple of 23-year old tight ends named Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker. 24-year old running back Frank Gore looked like he could be a workhorse for years to come, and 23-year old tackle Joe Staley gave a glimmer of hope to the offensive line. These up and comers would all be instrumental in the team's resurgence during the Jim Harbaugh era, and were major contributors to the 2012 NFC Championship team.

The same doesn't appear to be true this time around however, as it's difficult to find much young talent on the 49ers offense, let alone multiple players who could lead the team into the future. Other than Carlos Hyde, is there anyone on the offensive side of the roster that you can see as someone to build around? I'm not sure I do.

If your looking for answers on how the cupboard could have gotten so bare so quickly, they should be relatively easy to find. You see, successful franchises build and sustain strong rosters through the draft. San Francisco's general manager, Trent Baalke, hasn't done this. In fact, the more of an imprint Baalke seems to have on the roster, the worse it appears to get, especially on offense.

Take a ride back in time with me, won't you? All the way to 2012. The 49ers were coming off a bitter loss in the NFC Championship game, but seemed to be set up for years of success due to a strong core of players Baalke inherited or were largely influenced by his predecessor Scott McLoughan. Since the Niners didn't have many needs in the short term, the plan was to draft for two or three years down the line, when players like Davis, Walker, Gore, Staley, and others would have moved on or been near the end of the line. While Baalke executed the plan, he just did it poorly.

By now, the 2012 draft is infamous in 49ers' lore, and is a big reason why the team has so many offensive issues now. It's why they've had to go out of their comfort zone, and overspend in free agency for a player like Torrey Smith. Plain and simple, Baalke whiffed. On the entire draft. By selecting receiver AJ Jenkins and running back LaMichael James in the first two rounds, one would assume the team thought they were getting centerpieces on offense for years to come. Instead, Jenkins was one of the biggest busts in team history, never catching a pass in just one season on the roster before being traded. James struggled to find his niche, couldn't get on the field, and only lasted a little over two years. Baalke also missed on an offensive lineman (something that would become a theme), as fourth rounder Joe Looney never panned out and was let go prior the the 2015 season.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports


When the 2013 draft rolled around, San Francisco was still in need of some pieces on offense, especially at receiver and tight end. Having just lost Walker to free agency, it was imperative the team found someone to pair with Davis so Harbaugh could continue to employ the two-tight end sets he loved to run. Baalke spent a second round pick on the position, and selected Rice product Vance McDonald. This was another example of the right idea, but bad execution. In just under three seasons, McDonald has only managed 32 receptions on 61 targets (52 percent). To make matters worse, McDonald has a drop rate of 22 percent, which is the highest of any qualifying tight end over the past three years. He's actually done more harm than good. To make matters worse, Baalke passed on the likes of Travis Kelce and Jordan Reed, each of whom have become standouts at the position.

Baalke also tried his hand at receiver again, selecting the somewhat promising Quinton Patton in the fourth round. Patton has since proved to be both immature in his antics, and his development as a player. In 24 career games, he has 34 receptions on 64 targets (53 percent), and is always good for a few boneheaded moments now and then.

Miracles do happen in this world though, and Baalke seemed to hit on an offensive player in 2014, jumping on Hyde in the second round. Although injuries have derailed his 2015 campaign, Hyde looks the part of a feature back, and could have a Pro Bowl or two in his future if he can get any semblance of a team around him. In seven starts this season, Hyde overcame inconsistent line play and a foot injury to put up 470 yards on 115 attempts before finally being shut down.

Staying true to form, Baalke reverted back to his clueless ways, and followed up his best pick by possibly setting the franchise back years with two of his next three. In the third round, the floundering general manager attempted to solidify the interior of his offensive line by selecting Marcus Martin and Brandon Thomas. The results have been disastrous. Martin has been bad at guard and a train wreck at center, ranking at or near the bottom of the league at the latter all season (according to Pro Football Focus). Thomas, who sat out his rookie season while recovering from a knee injury, can't even manage to crack the active roster on game day. He's a complete unknown at this point.

In the fourth round, Baalke tried to pick yet another wide out, this time hoping Bruce Ellington would work out. While Ellington has talent, he can't seem to find a role on offense, and it shows in his numbers. With 15 catches for 116 yards (7.7 yards per reception), he hasn't been the big play threat some thought he would be. Ellington has also been underwhelming as a kick returner, and may not have a spot on the team moving forward.

The late round picks haven't amounted to much either, with names like Jason Slowey, Marcus Lattimore, B.J. Daniels, Carter Bykowski, and Trey Millard never making any kind of an impact. In fairness, the jury is still out on the 2015 class, which saw a significant number of offensive players brought in. Only tight end Blake Bell has made any kind of an impact though, as the rest are still unknown commodities that haven't offered any immediate returns.

With his track record being what it is, it's scary to think that Baalke could once again be the one pulling the trigger in 2016, as the 49ers attempt to rebuild their shell of an offense. San Francisco simply has to make the right choices this time around, or there could be a lot of 17-10 losses in the coming years.

Al Sacco has covered the 49ers for various sites over the years. He's been a guest on multiple podcasts and had his work used by ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY. Follow Al on Twitter @AlSacco49