Remember, back before the lockout, when there used to be these things called “bookstores?” And remember how some of them used to have bargain bins, which, inevitably, had industrial-sized, coffee-table books of “Ireland” or “Lighthouses” or “Birds of Tunisia” selling for $7.99?
It always took a little excavation, but I could usually unearth a true bargain-bin bargain, which explains my comprehensive John Feinstein collection (‘Next Man Up’ for less than five bucks? What a bargain for me!)
Well, the final rounds of the draft are the NFL’s equivalent of bargain-bin book shopping. Teams must wade through an endless list of unusual titles (Selvish Capers, Nehemiah Broughton) from unknown origins (Elon, Gardner-Webb), but there are always some purchases a few look back on with immense pride (Tom Brady! Marques Colston!)
The 49ers, who own six sixth- or seventh-round picks, will likely be fully immersed in the bargain bin on April 30, the final day of the three-day NFL draft. And they hope to continue their recent string of late-round success.
The Niners have had plenty of draft disasters during their inglorious recent past — from Kentwan Balmer to Kwame Harris — but they have also uncovered a surprising number of gems beyond the fifth round.
With that in mind, in a highly anticipated two-part blog series, we present “The 49ers’ Top-10 Sixth- or Seventh-Round Picks Since 2000.”
Before getting started, you might wonder: How were these guys ranked? The rankings were done using a complex formula that included Tim Rattay’s career passer rating, Arnaz Battle’s top time in the 40-yard dash and several gallons of subjectivity. The last item in each entry, the best sixth- or seventh-round pick at a position in that draft year, is included to offer more evidence that, yes, a decent player can be found at pick No. 174, one of San Francisco’s spots in the sixth round.
I’ll post Nos. 1-5 later this afternoon:
10. Arnaz Battle, WR, Notre Dame
Round, pick: 6th round, No. 197 overall
Three WRs drafted before Battle: David Kirkus, Grand Valley State, Lions (6th, 175th overall); Zuriel Smith, Hampton, Cowboys (6th, 186); LaTarence Dunbar, TCU, Falcons (6th, 196).
Three WRs drafted after Battle: Willie Ponder, SE Missouri State, Giants (6th, 199); David Tyree, Syracuse, Giants (6th, 211); Keenan Howry, Oregon, Vikings (7th, 221).
Analysis: Battle, now with the Steelers, led Niners wide receivers in receiving yards in 2006 and 2007. In 2006, he caught 59 passes without a drop. Battle has 178 catches for 2,150 yards with 11 TDs in his career. Not great, but consider the combined career numbers of the six wide receivers drafted ahead of him: 121 catches, 1,914 yards, nine TDs.
Best 6th- or 7th-round WR in 2003: Kevin Walter, Eastern Michigan, Texans (7, 255). Walter, Houston’s other receiver, has posted four straight 50-catch seasons.
9. Brian Jennings, long snapper, Arizona State
Round, pick: 7th, No. 230 overall
Three players drafted before Jennings: Mondriel Fulcher, TE, Miami, Raiders; Kevin Houser, FB, Ohio State, Saints; Ron Moore, DE, Northwestern Oklahoma State; Packers.
Three players drafted after Jennings: Clifton Black, DB, Texas State, Raiders; Jeff Harris, DB, Georgia, Dolphins; Jeff Haddad, WR, Buffalo, Bills.
Analysis: He’s a long snapper, which, for the purposes of these rankings, limits his ceiling (based on the formula, of course). But how many No. 230 overall picks play 11 seasons and earn a Pro Bowl berth, which Jennings did in 2004?
Best 6th- or 7th-round pick not named Tom Brady in 2000: Marc Bulger, West Virginia, Saints (6th, 168).
8. Tim Rattay, QB, Louisiana Tech
Round, pick: 7th, No. 212 overall
Three QBs drafted before Rattay: Spergon Wynn, Texas State, Browns (6th, 183rd overall); Tom Brady, Michigan, Patriots (6th, 199); Todd Husak, Stanford; Redskins (6th, 202).
QBs drafted after Rattay: Jarious Jackson, Notre Dame, Broncos (7th, 214); Joe Hamilton, Georgia Tech, Buccaneers (7th, 234).
Analysis: Think it’s easy to find a seventh-round quarterback who won’t be studying for his real-estate license within a year? Ever hear of Chris Greisen? From 1998-02, eight other quarterbacks besides Rattay were drafted in the seventh round and they combined to throw three touchdown passes in the NFL. Rattay (4,853 yards, 31 TDs, 23 INTs) started 16 games in San Francisco and holds the franchise record for completions in a game (38). If only the Niners had found similar quarterback value with their third-round pick in 2000. Four words: Giovanni. Carmazzi. Goodness. Me.
Best 6th- or 7th-round QB in 2000: Hmm … Brady?
7. Anthony Dixon, RB, Mississippi State
Round, pick: 6th, No. 173 overall
Three RBs drafted before Dixon: Montario Hardesty, Tennessee, Browns (2nd, 59th overall); Joe McKnight, USC, Jets (4th, 112); John Conner, Kentucky, Jets (5th, 139).
Three RBs drafted after Dixon: Deji Karim, RB, Southern Illinois, Jaguars (6th, 180); Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech, Steelers (6th, 188); James Starks, Buffalo, Packers (6th, 193).
Analysis: OK, this one is a bit of a projection. After leading the NFL in rushing in the preseason, Dixon didn’t run around the varsity quite so easily (237 yards, 3.4 yards a carry) as a rookie. The bet here is that he eventually discovers the right blend between sledgehammer and shake and bake. If he does, he’ll cement himself as a sixth-round steal.
Best 6th- or 7th-round RB in 2010: Starks. Green Bay’s rookie emerged in the playoffs and averaged 78.8 yards rushing in the Packers’ march to the Super Bowl title.
6. Eric Johnson, TE, Yale
Round, pick: 7th, No. 224 overall
Three TEs drafted before Johnson: Arther Love, South Carolina State, Patriots (6th, 180th overall); Dan O’Leary, Notre Dame, Bills (6th, 195); David Martin, Tennessee, Packers (6th, 198).
TE drafted after Johnson: Mike Roberg, Idaho, Panthers (7th, 227)
Analysis: Johnson played in just 71 games over seven seasons due to a variety of injuries, but he was productive when upright. In 2004, he led the Niners with 82 catches, the most by a tight end in franchise history. Of the 13 tight ends selected in the 2001 draft, Johnson (240 catches, 2,178 yards) ranks third in career catches and yards behind the first two taken – first-rounder Todd Heap and second-rounder Alge Crumpler. By the way, the next two tight ends drafted after Heap and Crumpler were third-rounders Sean Brewer and Shad Meier. Or is it Sean Meier and Shad Brewer?
Best 6th- or 7th-round TE in 2001: Johnson.