Best, worst 49ers' picks in each round of NFL draft over past decade

Best, worst 49ers' picks in each round of NFL draft over past decade

The 49ers have experienced a few home runs, along with many swings and misses, over the past decade of NFL drafts.

Here are their best and worst picks in each round since 2010. (Beginning with the fifth round, there is no need to list worst picks.)

First round

Best: Although the 49ers selected Arik Armstead in the first round the previous year, the 49ers went back to defensive tackle to land DeForest Buckner at No. 7 overall in 2016. Buckner was the team’s best player for most of the four seasons he played for the club. Buckner was so good that the 49ers got four years out of him and then flipped him this offseason to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 overall pick. The Colts awarded Buckner a contract that pays him $21 million annually. Armstead (2015), Mike McGlinchey (2018) and Nick Bosa (2019) are also looking good.

Worst: The 49ers traded up to get back into the first round to select Joshua Garnett in 2016. That made little sense at the time because there seemed to be a disconnect between GM Trent Baalke and coach Chip Kelly as to the kind of linemen who were fits for the system. Garnett started 11 games as a rookie, then battled injuries and is now out of the league. Reuben Foster (2017) and A.J. Jenkins (2012) did not turn out well. Solomon Thomas could ultimately go down as the worst pick because of the great players the 49ers passed up at No. 3 overall to select him.

Second round

Best: It could end up being wide receiver Deebo Samuel (2019) or safety Jaquiski Tartt (2015), but for now the best selection goes to Colin Kaepernick, who was an effective quarterback for the team on its 2012 run to the Super Bowl and the following season. Kaepernick started 58 regular-season games for the 49ers, during which time the club went 28-30.

Worst: The 49ers selected running back LaMichael James in 2012 despite Frank Gore having plenty of good seasons left in him. James appeared in just 15 regular-season games. He never scored a touchdown and lost five fumbles with the club, including a big turnover in the Super Bowl. The selection of Taylor Mays (2010) was pretty bad, too. He lasted just one season before he was traded away.

Third round

Best: The third round has been a sweet spot for the 49ers to find linebackers. NaVorro Bowman (2010) is the best third-round selection for the 49ers of the past decade. Fred Warner (2018) managed to step in as an immediate starter -- something even Bowman did not accomplish. Bowman was a four-time All-Pro selection whose career was cut short due to injuries.

Worst: This is a toss-up between Will Redmond (2016) and Corey Lemonier (2013). We’ll go with Redmond because he was one of Baalke’s many ACL picks that never panned out. Redmond never played a snap for the 49ers. To his credit, Redmond saw action in 13 games with two starts last season with the Green Bay Packers. Lemonier was a pass-rusher who registered just one sack for the 49ers in 42 games.

Fourth round

Best: There’s not a lot from which to choose for the 49ers in the fourth round. But based on his longevity -- most of it after leaving the 49ers -- the honor goes to offensive lineman Joe Looney (2012). Looney has started 30 games in his career, mostly with the Dallas Cowboys. He started four games with the 49ers in 2014.

Worst: This is also a difficult call for different reasons. Running back Marcus Lattimore (2013) was a person of such high character that the 49ers thought it was worth the gamble. But even he says he was shocked the 49ers drafted him because of his significant knee injury. There were plenty of red flags in the past that should have warned the 49ers against drafting cornerback Rashard Robinson (2016) or running back Joe Williams (2017). At least the 49ers somehow got a fifth-round pick from the New York Jets at the 2017 trade deadline. Therefore, the worst pick was Williams. GM John Lynch’s instincts were to keep him off the team’s draft board. But Kyle Shanahan fell in love with the tape, and Lynch decided to trade up to select him in the fourth round.

Fifth round

Best: This is no contest. George Kittle (2017) set the NFL single-season record for most receiving yards from a tight end in just his second NFL season. He is a superstar.

[RELATED: Kittle, trainer are making his workout available to fans]

Sixth round

Best: Nose tackle D.J. Jones (2017) worked his way into a starting role toward the end of his second NFL season. He played well last season as the starter, and could be asked to do more as a pass-rusher this season as the team looks to compensate for Buckner.

Seventh round

Best: Offensive tackle Trent Brown (2016) started 28 games in three seasons for the 49ers before the club traded him to New England, where he won a Super Bowl. He then signed a huge contract with the Raiders in free agency last season and was named to a spot on the AFC Pro Bowl team.

Examining 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo's case as NFC West's most clutch

Examining 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo's case as NFC West's most clutch

Jimmy Garoppolo’s play as the 49ers quarterback has been hyper-analyzed over the past two seasons, as fans try to decide whether the organization indeed has found its franchise quarterback.

Winning certainly hasn’t been an issue for Garoppolo in the Bay Area, as he’s been the victor in 21 of his 26 regular-season starts.

His play in the fourth quarter was particularly impressive during his first full season as a starting quarterback, as evidenced by the numbers.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Solely based off those stats, the argument could be made as to Jimmy G being considered a clutch quarterback.

But how does his fourth-quarter play stack up with his three opposing starters in the NFC West?

Garoppolo’s fourth-quarter passer rating (107.1) far surpasses that of Jared Goff with the Los Angeles Rams (79.7), Kyler Murray with the Arizona Cardinals (82.2) and Seattle Seahawks signal-caller Russell Wilson (99.4). The 49ers’ propensity for being ahead late in games last season allowed Garoppolo to hand the ball plenty in the final quarter, but close games in New Orleans in Week 14 and against the Rams in Week 16 showed that Jimmy G can make plays when it counts.

Garoppolo’s touchdown-to-interception ratio (6-1) only is bested by Wilson (7-1), who is one of the league’s best when it comes to limiting turnovers. Garoppolo also paces the division’s QBs in fourth-quarter completion percentage (70.09).

[RELATED: Jimmy Garoppolo absorbs Joe Montana's wisdom about winning]

Having one of the league’s best defenses on his side makes Garoppolo’s job immensely easier, as coach Kyle Shanahan rarely had to rely on passing the ball to win games. Goff and Murray played quite a bit from behind in 2019, which was a detriment to their efficiency. 

Wilson’s late-game heroics are a focal point of his reputation around the NFL, as 49ers fans saw first-hand during last year’s Week 10 loss to the Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium. But Wilson had a completion percentage below 50 in the red zone last season, where efficiency becomes even more imperative for a QB. Jimmy G was at just over 63 percent in the same zone, throwing 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

While Wilson clearly stands alone as the NFC West’s best quarterback entering 2020, Jimmy G and his clutch play in the final minutes aren’t far behind.

This stat shows 49ers star George Kittle's receiving, blocking mastery

This stat shows 49ers star George Kittle's receiving, blocking mastery

George Kittle is a one-of-a-kind tight end, and one stat from football analytics site Pro Football Focus is the latest indication why.

The 49ers star has been, in PFF's estimation, one of just two tight ends since 2018 to rank among the best at his position in receiving and run-blocking.

Kittle's 2,430 receiving yards over the last two seasons are second-best at his position behind Kansas City Chiefs counterpart Travis Kelce, and the Iowa product's per-game average of 81 yards actually topped Kelce. The 26-year-old also set the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end (1,377) in 2018, even as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was sidelined for all but three games with a torn ACL. 

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

But the 49ers recognize Kittle is much more than a playmaker, equally valuing his contributions to the team's dominant running game.

“I mean, he had more yards in the pass game as a tight end in the history of the NFL last year,” coach Kyle Shanahan said in January (H/T Jennifer Lee Chan). “So, any time you have a guy like that who's one of the best players on your team who's always just talking about running the ball and playing the physicality in the game and giving everything you can, it helps you hold everyone else a lot more accountable, and rarely do you have to."

While Kittle's skills make him a complete tight end, he reportedly doesn't want to be paid like one. NFL Media's Mike Silver said Friday on "NFL Total Access" that Kittle's agent, Jack Bechta, "[doesn't] care about the tight-end market" in contract-extension negotiations with the 49ers and thinks his client's new deal should reflect Kittle's unique, all-purpose value. 

"I'm being paid to do a George Kittle deal," Silver recalled Bechta saying.

The 49ers and Kittle aren't "close at all" on a new deal as a result, according to Silver.

[RELATED: 49ers' Jimmy G absorbs Montana's wisdom about winning]

There's still plenty of time for the 49ers and Kittle to reach an agreement, as he's entering the final year of his rookie deal. The 49ers, of course, can also use the franchise tag on him heading into the 2021 season.

If the two sides are going to reach a long-term deal, it sure seems like Kittle wants his receiving and blocking contributions reflected in it.