Doesn’t life feel more complete now that this year’s NFL Draft is wrapped up? Wait, whhaaa? The Niners took probably their fourth or fifth ideal option in the first round? They didn’t draft a wide receiver until the sixth round? They were noticeably hurt by not having the fifth-rounder that was callously stripped from them by Commish Goodell?
The mystery of the draft is that one can’t realistically assess the quality of the players selected the day after the draft. Players who excelled in college can fall flat on their collective faces in the pros. Others who ramble along somewhat anonymously in college find their place in the NFL and become good, possibly great, players. Draft grades a day or two after the draft might be “fun,” but they aren’t rational. And since I’m a rational guy (probably too much so according to my roommates), I will not get sucked in to giving you a report card on the Niners’ draft.
I will give you each player drafted with some comments from Scouts, Inc. regarding the pick. First two rounds today, the rest tomorrow. My comments are in italics:
Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina
“There are concerns that Balmer is a one-year wonder, and he’s a developmental prospect who needs to learn to play with better leverage. Still, he has good size and the frame to get even bigger. He’s also athletic for his size, so if he bulks up and learns to play with better leverage, he should develop into an excellent nose tackle.”
I’m a firm believer in never gambling on first-rounders. Lousy teams such as the Niners need as many solid, productive players as possible. Too many teams remain lousy for years because they feel the need to hit a home run with every top pick.
Want to know why the Niners have been terrible the last few years? Take a look at their first-round selections since 1995: WR J.J. Stokes, DE Israel Ifeanyi, QB Jim Druckenmiller, DB R.W. McQuarters, DT Reggie McGrew, LB Julian Peterson, DE Andre Carter, DB Mike Rumph, OT Kwame Harris, WR Rashuan Woods, QB Alex Smith, TE Vernon Davis, LB Patrick Willis, DT Kentwan Balmer.
If we were to play a fun game of Bust or Hit, that list would go Bust, Bust, Bust, Bust, Bust, Hit, Semi-Hit, Bust, Bust, BUST, with Smith and Davis on the road to Bust and Willis a certain Hit. That’s 2-for-10 not including Smith, Davis and Willis, which is a bad average even in baseball. How confident are you that this will go Bust?
Balmer is thought of as a developmental project, not exactly something a five-win team needs as its coach embarks on a make-or-break season. The interior defensive line is utterly important to every team, but did that position need to be remedied with the first pick? I can’t help but think another player on the board, Clemson DE Phillip Merling for one, could have brought more value while helping a need position.
Chilo Rachal, Guard, Southern Cal
The biggest knock on Rachal is his lack of athletic ability and his problems redirecting in pass protection. He struggles, at times, to reach blockers in the second level, and athletically he has some limitations. However, he’s quick off the ball, jars defenders with a strong punch and gets in position quickly. He also does a good job holding his ground against bull-rushers.
There is no doubt the guard depth is so depleted that this was nothing more than a need pick. It wasn’t for value because James Hardy (WR, Indiana), DeSean Jackson (WR, Cal), Limas Sweed (WR, Texas) and Quentin Groves (DE, Auburn) were on the board. Those were all guys who were targeted as FIRST ROUND picks for the Niners and they were waiting to be plucked off the board in the second round.
Would Rachal have been available in the third round? Remember that the Niners also dropped five spots – from 7 to 12 – in the third round as part of their punishment for tampering with Lance Briggs. Five spots isn’t a huge drop, but perhaps it was enough that they didn’t think Rachal would be there if they went with one of the receivers or Groves in the second round. Just some food for thought