A year ago, you might have found quarterback Alex Smith's name on a list of the 49ers' worst draft picks. But, of course, things have changed in one season.And things might change again a year from now on the best list.Any conversation of the 49ers' recent draft success should include mentions of outside linebacker Aldon Smith and inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman. But both of those players have enjoyed just one season of success. To get on this list, players must sustain success over multiple seasons.And with that brief introduction, we present the best and worst 49ers draft picks since 2000...
Best draft picks
(Since 2000)1. LB Patrick Willis, 2007, first round
There was a large faction of 49ers fans who were calling for the team to fill a need and select defensive lineman Adam Carriker with the No. 11 pick. And there certainly was no consensus within the 49ers' draft room. Then-general manager Scot McCloughan determined that Carriker would be a solid player while Willis had a chance for super-stardom. He was correct. Willis is on a Hall-of-Fame pace with five Pro Bowl appearances in five NFL seasons. And if that's not enough, Willis has even made it into the Final Four of candidates to grace the cover of Madden '13.2. RB Frank Gore, 2005, third round
After the 49ers selected Gore with the No. 65 overall pick, Sports Illustrated called him the most overrated running back in the draft. Instead, Gore has been the most productive runner from the 2005 class. McCloughan took a chance on Gore, who sustained two torn ACLs at Miami, and Gore has responded with five 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He has never averaged less than 4.2 yards a carry during any of his seven seasons. With 7,625 rushing yards, Gore is the 49ers' all-time leader since the club joined the NFL in 1950.3. OL Eric Heitmann, 2002, seventh round
Terry Donahue's draft was otherwise forgettable, as cornerback Mike Rumph and linebacker Saleem Rasheed, the top two selections, never had much to offer. But in the seventh round the 49ers found a couple of good offensive linemen: Heitmann and Kyle Kosier. Heitmann had a solid career with the 49ers at guard and center before a neck injury cut his career short. But before his retirement, Heitmann was named as the winner of the Bobb McKittrick Award for three consecutive seasons (2006-2008).
Honorable mention: OLB Aldon Smith, first round 2011; TE Vernon Davis, first round, 2006; LB NaVorro Bowman, third round, 2010; NT Isaac Sopoaga, fourth round, 2004; S Dashon Goldson, fourth round, 2007; P Andy Lee, sixth round, 2004; LS Brian Jennings, seventh round, 2000.Worst draft picks
1. DL Kentwan Balmer, 2008, first round
The 49ers were looking to strengthen their defensive line, so McCloughan took Balmer, who had one good season at North Carolina, with the No. 29 overall pick. Balmer missed his flight to the Bay Area the next morning. And that pretty much sums up his forgettable tenure with the 49ers. In two seasons with the 49ers, he never started a game. When he saw himself slipping down the depth chart in training camp of 2010, Balmer quit and forced a trade. The Seattle Seahawks took him off the 49ers' hands for just a sixth-round draft pick. The Seahawks got rid of him after one season.2. WR Rashaun Woods, 2004, first round
The 49ers originally had the 16th pick that year, but Donahue traded back a couple of times and landed Woods with the No. 31 overall pick. Woods' arrival came after the 49ers parted ways with Terrell Owens. Woods was even issued No. 81. But Woods' true passion was fishing. He caught just seven passes for 160 yards as a rookie, and the following year the 49ers were quick to place him on injured reserve with a thumb injury. Then, he was traded to San Diego for cornerback, Sammy Davis, who played one season for the 49ers.3. S Taylor Mays, 2010, second round
Definitely a member of the all-hype team, Mays came to the 49ers with a big name after being promoted throughout his college career at USC as a future first-round draft pick. Mays was a workout warrior at the NFL scouting combine. At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Mays definitely looked the part. Trent Baalke, who ran the draft, allowed coach Mike Singletary to make the call. Mays got his chance to play as a rookie when veteran safety Michael Lewis left the team. But Mays could not hold onto the starting job. After Singletary was fired, the 49ers traded Mays after just one season to the Cincinnati Bengals for a seventh-round pick in the 2013 draft.Dishonorable mention: OT Kwame Harris, first round, 2003; CB Mike Rumph, first round, 2002; G Chilo Rachal, second round, 2008; QB Giovanni Carmazzi, third round, 2000; LB Saleem Rasheed, third round, 2002; DE Andrew Williams, 2003; WR Derrick Hamilton, third round, 2004; WR Brandon Williams, third round, 2006.