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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ranking the San Francisco 49ers’ First-Round Picks in the Last Decade

Apr 17, 2020 at 8:06 AM

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With the 2020 NFL Draft less than a week away, it's time to take a stroll down memory lane and see how the San Francisco 49ers fared with their first-round picks in the last decade. The 49ers made 13 such selections in the past 10 years, five of which remain on the roster. San Francisco had a wide variety of results from 2010 to 2019, as the list below contains a handful of both All-Pros and All-Duds.

13. A.J. Jenkins (2012 Pick #30)
After putting together a senior season during which he totaled 90 catches for 1,276 yards and eight touchdowns and running a sub-4.4 second 40-yard dash at the Combine, A.J. Jenkins looked like a steal with the 30th overall selection. However, he only played 35 snaps for the Red and Gold and didn't record a single stat for the team. The Illinois product was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs the following year and is widely considered one of the worst draft picks in franchise history.

12. Joshua Garnett (2016 Pick #28)
Despite winning a handful of awards and being named a consensus All-American his senior year in college, Joshua Garnett was considered a second-rounder by many analysts before the draft. The 49ers slightly reached by making him the 28th overall pick and unfortunately, the Stanford alum didn't prove the doubters wrong. Garnett started 11 out of 15 games his rookie season and battled injuries the next couple years, before failing to make the roster last August.

11. Reuben Foster (2017 Pick #31)
The warning signs were there as questions started to arise about Reuben Foster's character at the Combine. Rookie general manager John Lynch took a gamble on the University of Alabama superstar but the bet didn't pay out. Between the painted lines, he was great, but off the field issues and injuries have prevented Foster from maximizing his potential as he's now a member of the Washington Redskins, and has yet to suit up for his new club.

10. Solomon Thomas (2017 Pick #3)
Solomon Thomas makes it back-to-back players from the 2017 draft class and the second Stanford alum on the list. He put together an impressive career in Palo Alto as he racked up 24.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks in two seasons, and he tested well by running a 4.69-second 40-yard dash and putting up 30 reps on the bench press. While Thomas' resume heading into the draft justifies his top-five selection, he's struggled to make the transition to the NFL and saw his role significantly diminish last season.

It doesn't help matters that the defensive lineman was taken ahead of young superstars, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Sure, Jimmy Garoppolo is a good player in his own right, but those two are premier players at the position, and 49er fans are left wondering what could have been if the team prioritized a quarterback three years ago. Then again, Mitch Trubisky, who might have been lower than Thomas is on this list, also could have been the end result.

9. Jimmie Ward (2014 Pick #30)
It was a bit of a surprise when San Francisco spent a first-round pick on Jimmie Ward back in 2014. The team had signed Antoine Bethea in free agency and used the 18th overall selection on Eric Reid the previous year. In his rookie season, Ward struggled to get playing time in the crowded defensive backfield as he only played in eight games and was on the field for 25 percent of defensive snaps.

The Northern Illinois product got more playing time in his second year and was productive, tallying 57 total tackles, one interception, and six passes defended. His next three seasons were riddled with injuries until he put together his most impressive campaign in 2019 with 78 tackles, 8 PBUs (including playoffs) and of course, helped the team reach the Super Bowl. Ward figures to remain a key piece of the 49ers' defense in the future as he signed a new three-year $28.5 million contract about a month ago.

8. Mike McGlinchey (2018 Pick #9)
Remember when the Battle of the Bay was decided by a coin flip? In 2018, not only did San Francisco defeat its Bay Bridge rival on the field, but it also won what turned out to be a very important coin flip about 10 months earlier at the NFL Combine. The 49ers were awarded the ninth overall pick and took Mike McGlinchey, whom the Raiders were reportedly targeting as well.

McGlinchey put together an outstanding first campaign and was named to the NFL's All-Rookie team. Injuries stunted his growth this past season as he missed four games in the middle of the regular season. The Notre Dame product figures to be a staple of the organization's offensive line for the foreseeable future, and he can rapidly climb his way up this list by stringing together more impressive performances over the next couple of years.

7. Eric Reid (2013 Pick #18)
As previously mentioned, the Red and Gold spent their 2013 first-round pick on Eric Reid. Coming off a Super Bowl run, the organization actually held the 31st overall selection but traded up with a hated rival, the Dallas Cowboys, to take the defensive back. That alone says a lot about how much it valued Reid.

Reid burst onto the scene in his first season as not only was he named to the NFL's All-Rookie team, but he also made the Pro Bowl. He accumulated seven interceptions and 18 passes defended in his first two years with the 49ers, but struggled to replicate this success as the team went through a dark period between 2015 and 2017. The former LSU Tiger spent the last couple of seasons with the Carolina Panthers and is currently looking for a new employer.

6. Anthony Davis (2010 Pick #11)
Rutgers University isn't exactly known for turning out NFL superstars but nonetheless, Anthony Davis owns the distinction of being the highest-drafted player from his alma mater. Seeing as the Scarlett Knights have won a total of 13 games in the last five seasons, he'll likely hold this honor for a while.

The New Jersey native had a bizarre ending to his career initially retiring over injury concerns in 2015, then unretiring in 2016, then retiring again about a month after being reinstated, and unretiring once again in 2019. Regardless, the beginning of his time in San Francisco was impressive as he started every game from 2010 to 2013 and was a key part of the team's 2012 Super Bowl run.

5. Mike Iupati (2010 Pick #17)
Continuing with the theme of 2010 first-round offensive linemen who came from colleges that aren't known for their football programs, next on the list is Mike Iupati. After dominating in the Western Athletic Conference and being named a consensus All-American, he became the highest player selected in the NFL Draft from the University of Idaho since 1967. The former Vandal continued to have success at the next level with the 49ers.

Much like Davis, Iupati was a first-stringer from the get-go and started every game he was healthy for. He also represented the organization three times at the Pro Bowl and earned a first-team All-Pro selection in 2012. The big man also put together a handful of good seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, and he recently resigned with the Seattle Seahawks making 2020 his 11th season as a professional.

4. Arik Armstead (2015 Pick #17)
A year ago, Arik Armstead would have been much lower on this list. He was often injured and when he was on the field it wasn't pretty as he only accumulated nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss in four seasons. However, he managed to put it together and flip the script in 2019.

The former Duck led the team with 10 sacks, finished second with 18 QB hits and 11 TFLs, and came in at number 30 on Pro Football Focus' top 101 players of 2019. All of that earned him a big payday as he signed a five-year $85 million contract with San Francisco about a month ago. Armstead will look to build on his breakout year in 2020 as he figures to be a building block for the team's defense for years to come.

3. Nick Bosa (2019 Pick #2)
Every time the two teams meet, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan should be thanking Cardinals' owner Michael Bidwill and general manager Steve Keim. Had Arizona been more patient with former head coach Steve Wilks instead of firing him after one season, the team likely would have kept Josh Rosen and taken Nick Bosa with the first pick in the draft. Instead, Rosen is out, Kyler Murray is in and Bosa is dominating for the Red and Gold.

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20 and it's only been one year but the Ohio State product put on one hell of a first campaign. Not only did he rack up nine sacks and win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, but he also accumulated 80 pressures per Pro Football Focus, which set a rookie record for edge defenders. The only thing keeping him from the top spot on this list is that we've only seen one season from him.

2. Aldon Smith (2011 Pick #7)
It's a shame that his off the field issues are the primary topics of discussion when it comes to Aldon Smith. He'll forever be known as a "what could have been" type of player. However, beyond his transgressions, the Missouri product was dominant between the white lines.

Smith burst onto the scene by recording 14 sacks and 27 quarterback hits as a rookie. The next year was even more impressive as he racked up 19.5 sacks, 29 QB hits, and he earned a first-team All-Pro selection. 2013 was when the pass rusher's troubles began to surface and he only played in 11 games, but still managed to accumulate 8.5 sacks. Now, he's trying to fight his way back into the league as he recently signed a contract with the Cowboys.

1. DeForest Buckner (2016 Pick #7)
Is it too soon or rubbing salt in the wounds to have DeForest Buckner as the 49ers' best first-round pick in the last decade? Maybe, but there is no denying how impactful he was during his four years in San Francisco.

The University of Oregon product started every game he played in, recorded 28.5 sacks, and 38 tackles for loss as a 49er. He developed into one of the NFL's best defensive tackles and the organization will be looking for his replacement during next week's draft. Lynch will have a difficult time finding someone to match Buckner's impact but luckily, the general manager has an extra first-round pick at his disposal.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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