49ers' best drafts of past 10 years

49ers' best drafts of past 10 years
April 12, 2013, 8:00 am
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In 2011, the 49ers drafted Aldon Smith and Colin Kaepernick in the first two rounds. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

The 49ers won 27 games over the past two seasons with two NFC West division titles, two appearances in the NFC championship game and a trip to the Super Bowl. They owe a good portion of their success to several strong drafts, during which the team selected nine players who were named to the Pro Bowl over the most-recent two years. Fifteen of the 49ers' starters in Super Bowl XLVII were acquired through the draft through several different regimes. Former general manager Terry Donahue selected last year's starting nose tackle, Isaac Sopoaga, as well as All-Pro punter Andy Lee. The nucleus of the team was acquired during Scot McCloughan's tenure, along with Mike Nolan. Even Mike Singletary had a major influence on one draft before Trent Baalke's promotion to general manager and his pairing with Jim Harbaugh. Here is a ranking of the 49ers' top five drafts over the past 10 years:

1. 2007 -- The good: This draft ranks as one of the best in franchise history with the selections of three Pro Bowl players and two other starters on their Super Bowl team of last season. McCloughan went with linebacker Patrick Willis with the No. 11 overall selection. Believe it or not, it was not an obvious pick. McCloughan was met some resistance inside the organization. He was adamant Willis was the right call, and he hit a home run. Willis is on a Hall-of-Fame pace with six Pro Bowls in six NFL seasons. The 49ers acquired an additional first-round draft pick in a trade with the New England Patriots, which led to the selection of left tackle Joe Staley at No. 28. Staley was selected to his second straight Pro Bowl. Dashon Goldson, who made two Pro Bowls before leaving to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent this offseason, was chosen in the fourth round. Defensive lineman Ray McDonald was a strong pickup in the third round. The 49ers took a gamble on cornerback Tarell Brown, who was considered a character risk, in the fifth round. Brown has been a model citizen and teammate, and he has performed well in two seasons as a starter. The bad: Receiver Jason Hill did not pan out as a third-round pick, and fourth-round selections Jay Moore and Joe Cohen sustained injuries and neither defensive lineman made it into a regular-season game with the 49ers.

[RELATED: 49ers' worst draft picks over past 10 years]

2. 2011 -- The good: Baalke used the 49ers' first two selections to get sensational talents on both sides of the ball. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith, chosen as a bit of a surprise at No. 7 overall, has recorded more sacks (33.5) in his first two seasons than any player in NFL history. He already owns the 49ers' single-season record with 19.5 sacks. The 49ers engineered a trade in the second round to move up to select Colin Kaepernick, who was outstanding in 10 starts last season and figures to be the team's franchise quarterback. Third-round pick Chris Culliver was the team's third cornerback in both of his first two seasons. Running back Kendall Hunter performed well as Frank Gore's backup until a partially torn Achilles ended his second season. The 49ers drafted Central Florida defensive end Bruce Miller and converted him to fullback, where he developed quickly into a solid contributor as a blocker and on special teams. Guard Daniel Kilgore was the team's top backup lineman last season. The bad: Wide receiver Ronald Johnson, a sixth-round draft pick, was cut in training camp and team did not bring him back to the practice squad. Colin Jones, a sixth-rounder who was solid on special teams, was traded after one season. Seventh-rounders Mike Person and Curtis Holcomb were released without ever playing in a game.

3. 2010 -- The good: The early portion of this draft had Singletary's thumbprint all over it. He wanted physical offensive linemen, so the 49ers invested both picks within the first 17 selections on powerful blockers. The 49ers moved up two spots to select right tackle Anthony Davis at No. 11. Davis had two up-and-down seasons before playing very well in his third year. The 49ers rewarded him last week with a lucrative contract extension through 2019. Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati, selected at No. 17, has been a key in the 49ers' power-running game. The 49ers selected inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, a Patrick Willis clone, in the third round. He was honored as an All-Pro the past two seasons and was one of the steals of the draft. Running back Anthony Dixon and receiver Kyle Williams were chosen in the sixth round. The bad: Singletary insisted on safety Taylor Mays in the second round. A year later, the 49ers traded Mays away to the Cincinnati Bengals for a seventh-round draft pick. The 49ers gave up on tight end Nate Byham and cornerback Phillip Adams after they sustained injuries.

4. 2006 -- The good: The Green Bay Packers selected linebacker A.J. Hawk at No. 5, and the 49ers grabbed tight end Vernon Davis with the next pick. It has worked out considerably better for the 49ers. Davis made a Pro Bowl after catching 13 touchdown passes in 2009. His pass-catching statistics have decreased, but he remains a threat in the passing game and is a valued member of the offense due to his blocking. Davis' backup the past seven seasons, Delanie Walker, was a very good selection in the sixth round. The ultra-versatile Walker will get a chance to start this season after signing a big-money deal with the Tennessee Titans. Outside linebacker Parys Haralson was also a solid choice in the fifth round. Michael Robinson, currently with the Seattle Seahawks, was a key special-teams player that Singletary cut after four seasons. The bad: Outside linebacker Manny Lawson was chosen with the No. 22 overall selection. He was a good all-around player but he never provided the kind of much-needed pass rush the team envisioned he would supply. Third-round pick Brandon Williams, a wide receiver, brought nothing to the table.

5. 2005 -- The good: The 49ers had the No. 1 overall pick. Nolan and McCloughan hoped to get the player who would be their bridge to greatness. And, in fact, they did get that player with the third-round selection of running back Frank Gore. As it turned out, top overall pick Alex Smith -- while never playing like a No. 1 overall pick -- ended up being a very good player in his final two seasons with the club. Center David Baas, though over-drafted at the top of the second round, and third-round pick Adam Snyder were OK. Tight end Billy Bajema has done well for himself as a seventh-round pick. Bajema played four seasons with the 49ers, and has played the past four with the St. Louis Rams. The bad: Defensive tackle Ronald Fields, started nine games in his four seasons with the 49ers, before signing with the Denver Broncos in 2009. That pick was not so bad, but the 49ers did not get much of anything from fifth-round pick Rasheed Marshall, sixth-rounder Derrick Johnson or seventh-rounders Daven Holly, Marcus Maxwell or Patrick Estes. Considering the 49ers' roster was so weak, there was ample opportunity for late draft picks to make an impact.

 

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