Well, another draft comes and goes and time will tell who are the big winners and losers from this weekend. The Niners tried an unconventional approach this year, which may end working out well, or flopping. Once again, a few years down the road, a clear picture of the strength of this draft will emerge.
There are many ways to approach my analysis. At first glance, I thought an incomplete grade is warranted. The addition of a third round pick next year, via trade, does add some merit to this draft class. The later rounds won't have the same impact in the grade, but any additional pick is an additional pick. However, going the incomplete route is a cop-out, since this is all fun and games. So, here it is:
Round One- AJ Jenkins- A bit surprised with the pick. However, in the last days before the draft, the Rams were all over him, and I almost put him at 33 on my big board. I thought they wanted J. Jenkins more and had AJ after him. Jenkins was the 7th WR on my board, and the 4th taken overall. I think he is a good player, not a great player. To me, he is a solid number two WR in the NFL, but this is not going to happen until year 3. Expect very little impact in 2012. Smooth, quick, runs good routes, and productive, despite a lack of quality QB play. Saw a lot of him since I live in Big Ten country. Grade: F.
The reason for the grade is more than the player (because to me, Jenkins at 30 is a C+ grade). It is the opportunity to utilize the pick for the best value. And the best value at 30, was to not stay at 30. Great opportunities jump in front of you rarely in the draft, and the Niners passed on a golden one. Due to the nature of needs-based picks, from 6-21, we saw a complete run on defensive players. Only Tannehill at 8, Floyd at 13, and K. Wright at 20 were selected on the offensive side of the ball. At 21, the Bengals traded down so NE could draft Chandler Jones. The next handful of teams on the clock had OL needs, and to me, this was the time to make a move. The Browns, at 22, from all reports, lost out on K. Wright at 20, and could have been a trade partner. The Lions, at 23, needed OL help. The Steelers, at 24, for sure. The Texans, at 26, as well. So, with the top graded interior lineman in possibly a decade sitting on the board at 22, in David DeCastro, the Niners could have picked up one of the best players in the draft, and at great value. It would have cost a third rounder according to the value of trades around the same pick and according to trade value chart. The Niners missed on DeCastro, which would have anchored the right side of the OL for a decade.
Round 2- LaMichael James- Quick, shifty RB who can make players miss, and has potential to make big plays on offense. Rotational, third down back, who will probably play 10 snaps per game. And, therein lies the problem. The team is stocked at RB, with Gore, who is a three down back, Hunter, who is a similar back to James, and Brandon Jacobs. James may get his hands on the ball 3-4 times a game, and I just don't think this is good value for a second round selection. The team could have found a similar type player with even more explosiveness in Chris Rainey, about 4 rounds later. Grade: D.
Round 3 Traded- Good negotiation by Baalke. The Colts drafted TY Hilton, who is more explosive than James, but they gave up a lot in moving up. A fifth rounder next year and the pick five picks later. Grade- A
Round 4- Another great value trade dropping six slots and picking up a 6th this year and 6th next year. The Dolphins saw Lamar Miller on the board. Grade- A
Round 4- A third trade in the matter of ten picks. Team gives up pick for a 3rd rounder in 2013. Panthers desperately wanted Frank Alexander, and I don't know why. Great value trade. Grade- A
Round 4- Joe Looney- A pretty good pick under the circumstances. I think the team got burnt in the Dolphins trade when the Ravens grabbed Gino Gradkowski, who I think the team was all over. The best of the interior OL are long gone by now, and the team needs a guy who can come in and compete right now for a starting position. Looney has a ton of experience, is savvy, smart, and is technically sound. He will compete for the starting RG spot right away. That is the upside. The downside, Looney doesn't have much upside, and I'm not sure he will ever reach the level of Adam Snyder. A decent value pick because the team desperately needed a body. I had a list of guys graded higher, but I think pick is alright. Grade- B-
Round 5- Darius Fleming- Good football player that is athletic, quick, and productive. Not sure how he fits on our team. I speculate the team will shift him inside to ILB, and he will compete for the primary backup role under Bowman. He provides some insurance in case Bowman does not re-sign with the team in the future. The team had greater needs, and there were better players on the board, so this is a head scratcher to me. Grade: D
Round 6- Trent Robinson, Michigan State, FS- Home Run. The Niners get a steal in the 6th with a guy I had a late 3rd round grade. One of the best FS prospects in this draft, Robinson can run with WR's, and is not afraid to tackle. Productive, experienced, and solid instincts. Really outstanding pick.Grade: A
Round 6- Jason Slowey- Another terrific pick from small school Western Oregon. Slowey adds a lot of versatility in this draft, as we will be able to play all three interior line positions, and in an emergency, play tackle. Athletic, tough, and raw. Has much more upside than Looney, and Slowey was on a list of six small school guys I predicted the team would select. Brilliant play for a sixth rounder. Grade: A
Round 7- Cam Johnson- Edge OLB rusher, Virginia. Johnson is an enigma. Great athletic ability, played in a 3-4 system, has tremendous upside, and is a terrible underachiever. Lacks passion for the game, should be more productive and dominant. Guy with character flaws. However, you are getting second-third round talent in the 7th round, and if he can get his head on straight, becomes a terrific value pick. Could be starting material on another 3-4 team. Grade: A
So, as you can see, this is a complicated grade, with the variable of additional productive players next year. In most drafts, the greatest focus of the grade is the first two or three picks, and this was the down part of this draft class. Just not enough bang for your buck, and the loss of a potential Pro-Bowl type player in DeCastro because the team did not make the move up. Late rounders and future picks helped the final score below.
Final Draft Grade: C
As for my draft board, based on my best player available board, in a straight up, no trade draft, I had:
Round One- Peter Konz, C/G
Round Two- Mohamed Sanu, WR
Round Three- Brandon Thompson, NT
Round Four- Malik Jackson, DE
Round Five- Vick Ballard, RB
Round Six- Antonio Allen, SS
Round Seven- Derrius Brooks, CB
It has been a fun run. I will gladly take all questions, and time permitting as I shift from this board to real life, I will hopefully get a chance to respond to all.