Now that we’ve had a couple of weeks to think about the draft, which 49ers picks do you think were their best and which were their worst? Here’s my list.
1. Jeff Driskel, QB, Round 6, Pick 207
Thirteen teams drafted quarterbacks before the Niners took Jeff Driskel, and at least six of those teams reached. The Jets reached for Christian Hackenberg in Round 2. The Patriots reached for Jacoby Brissett in Round 3. The Browns reached for Cody Kessler in Round 3. The Raiders reached for Connor Cook in Round 4. The Cowboys reached for Dak Prescott in Round 4. And the Bills reached for Cardale Jones in Round 4.
The Niners waited until the end of Round 6 and took a quarterback with more potential than all the other ones I just listed. Driskel is an explosive athlete who played very well last season at Louisiana Tech. He’s similar to Carson Wentz, another athletic quarterback who had success at a small school – North Dakota State.
2. DeForest Buckner, DE, Round 1, Pick 7
I’m guessing DeForest Buckner was Plan B and Ronnie Stanley was Plan A for the 49ers.
They probably could have gotten Stanley if the Chargers had taken offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil with the third pick like most people expected they would. But Tunsil dropped to Pick 13 after a video emerged of him smoking marijuana, so Stanley became the first offensive tackle drafted. The Ravens took him with the sixth pick.
And the Niners ended up with Buckner, a good Plan B if that’s what he was. He’ll be a tremendous upgrade over Quinton Dial as interior pass-rusher on third downs next season, but probably won’t play much on first and second downs until he gets stronger.
I rank Buckner No. 2 and not No. 1 because I’m not sure he was the right player to take with the seventh pick. Offensive tackle Jack Conklin, whom the Titans drafted with the eighth pick, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, whom the Bears drafted with the ninth pick, and even Tunsil, whom the Dolphins ended up drafting, may have better careers than Buckner.
3. Joshua Garnett, G, Round 1, Pick 28
Of all the 49ers’ picks, Garnett probably will make the biggest immediate impact. He was by far the best guard in the draft, he should start right away and he should significantly improve the 49ers’ running game until Carlos Hyde gets injured.
But I rank Garnett No. 3 for a couple reasons: One, he’s a terrific guard, but there were a lot of players at different positions who were available and may be better than Garnett. Two, he probably won’t play more than five season with the 49ers. They don’t re-sign guards.
Instead of taking Garnett, the Niners could have taken the best defensive end available, either Vernon Butler or Chris Jones. And instead of taking Buckner with the seventh pick, the Niners could have taken Conklin or Tunsil, played either one at left guard for a couple of seasons and move that player to left tackle when Joe Staley retires.
1. Will Redmond, CB, Round 3, Pick 68
Nickelback was one of maybe three positions at which the Niners already were set.
They spent a first-round pick on that position just two years ago when they drafted Jimmie Ward. They also spent a fifth-round pick that year on a nickel back – Keith Reaser.
With all of the holes the Niners currently have on their roster, holes at inside linebacker, outside linebacker, running back and wide receiver, the Niners spent their high third-round pick this year, which practically is a low second-round pick, on yet another nickelback.
And not just any nickelback. An injured nickelback. A nickelback who tore his ACL in October and may or may not play next season. Probably shouldn’t play season. Even if he could play next season, where would he play? Nickelback?
Wasn’t there someone the Niners could have drafted in Round 3 who plays a different position and doesn’t have a reconstructed knee?
Instead of Redmond, the 49ers could have taken outside linebacker Shilique Calhoun, outside linebacker Yannick Ngakoue, outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell, nose tackle Andrew Billings, cornerback Keivarae Russell, cornerback Eric Murray, running back Kenyan Drake, running back C.J. Prosise, inside linebacker Nick Vigil, inside linebacker B.J. Goodson, inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, wide receiver Leonte Carroo or wide receiver Braxton Miller.
2. Rashard Robinson, CB, Round 4, Pick 133
I don’t have a problem with the Niners taking a cornerback here, but I do have a problem with the cornerback they took.
Robinson is stiff. He lacks agility. He’s weak. He’s thin. He has poor feet and poor technique in press coverage. He’s a bad tackler. He started only eight games in college. He intercepted only one pass. And he hasn’t played football since midway through the 2014 season because LSU suspended him indefinitely.
Other than that, he’s terrific.
Instead of Robinson, the 49ers could have taken running back Kenneth Dixon, running back DeAndre Washington, running back Paul Perkins, running back Jordan Howard, running back Wendell Smallwood, running back Jonathan Williams, running back Alex Collins, wide receiver Jordan Payton, wide receiver Trevor Davis, wide receiver Rashard Higgins, cornerback Zack Sanchez or cornerback LeShaun Sims.
3. Fahn Cooper, G/T, Round 5, Pick 174
Cooper was the third offensive lineman the 49ers drafted.
The first was Garnett, who will replace Alex Boone at left guard. The second was John Theus, whom the Niners took with their second pick in Round 5 and will compete with Erik Pears to be the backup swing tackle.
I understand why the Niners drafted Garnett and Theus. I don’t understand why they drafted Cooper. He’s not big or athletic enough to play tackle in the NFL, so he’ll have to move to guard, which he didn’t play in college. He has to learn a new position and get a lot stronger.
He’s a project. Down the line, he may develop into a dependable backup guard.
How badly did the Niners need another guard? They already had Garnett, Andrew tiller, Zane Beadles, Brandon Thomas and Marcus Martin.
Instead of Cooper, the Niners could have taken running back Keenan Reynolds, inside linebacker Devante Bond, tight end Jerrell Adams, wide receiver Cody Core or outside linebacker Dadi Nicolas.