The 2010 NFL Draft is complete. The 49ers filled big needs on the offensive line, added a hard hitting safety, a solid linebacker, a running back who will compete with Gore and Coffee and some other players hoping to make the squad. Below are the draft grades the 49ers received from the draft analysts around the NFL.
Summary: Give San Francisco credit. Early on in the draft it had a chance to get better in a couple of places and decided to get a lot better in one. But consider the trickle-down effect: By taking Anthony Davis, the left tackle with the highest upside in the draft — emphasis on “upside” — and then a lock to be a good NFL guard in Mike Iupati, the Niners are a better running team right now. The passing game suddenly seems better as well. Taylor Mays at No. 49 is a good value selection, and the kid will be motivated, but I think we’re past pretending he was a steal because of his size-speed combination. His tape fell really flat. Navorro Bowman has size questions, but he’s better than No. 91 overall. Can’t forget they added some depth at wide receiver via the trade for Ted Ginn.
Draft grade: B
What I liked: Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman is fantastic in space and could get on the field in obvious passing downs as a rookie. Taylor Mays has the physical tools that coaches love to work with and should play with a rather sizable chip on his shoulder after going much later than he anticipated.
What I didn’t: Trading up to select Anthony Davis seemed unnecessary, and drafting a second offensive linemen in round one in Mike Iupati didn’t seem to be nearly as pressing as getting one of the top two or three corners in the draft in Wilson or Jackson.
Moving forward: The 49ers have made their bed at the quarterback position with Alex Smith and now they will lie in it. Most of the other positions seem to be primed for a division title; now Smith just needs to lead them there.
The 49ers bolstered their offensive line and didn’t take a quarterback, meaning they will stick with Alex Smith this season. Free safety Taylor Mays of USC was considered a top 10 pick a year ago, but he slipped this season because he didn’t track the deep ball very well and missed so many interception opportunities. But Mays can run and tackle and should be a good fit. He is motivated to prove his worth, too.
Best pick: Guard Mike Iupati was a nice pick with the 17th choice in the first round. He is a tough guy who will help the run game.
Questionable move: Taking safety Taylor Mays in the second round. I think he lacks cover skills that will show up in the NFL.
Third-day gem: I like running back Anthony Dixon, who was taken in the sixth round. He was a productive runner at Mississippi State.
Analysis: They landed two good offensive linemen with their first two picks, with Anthony Davis going first. I like that, but they took Mays too high, which drops the grade down.
San Francisco 49ers: A-
With an established star in Frank Gore, many casual fans might have thought the 49ers were among the best running teams in the league, but an inability to gain an inch on short-yardage plays made addressing the offensive line a huge concern for coach Mike Singletary. Trading up to No. 11 to get Anthony Davis might have been an unnecessary move, as he likely would have been available to the 49ers at their original No. 13 selection. He provides the 49ers with a quality athlete in tandem with current left tackle Joe Staley. Having athletic tackles will help in Mike Iupati’s adjustment to the NFL’s speedier pass rushers. Few, if any, prospects in this draft presented Iupati’s power as a drive blocker. The 49ers may as well have had a third-round pick by getting Taylor Mays in the mid second. The intimidating presence over the middle fills a big area of need. Third-round pick Navarro Bowman, on the other hand, was an odd choice, given that he lacks the size most teams are looking for in a traditional edge rusher. Sixth-round pick Anthony Dixon could surprise as a goal-line back to spell Frank Gore. Sticking to their philosophy of controlling the line of scrimmage, the 49ers may have emerged as the NFC West favorite with this draft.
San Francisco 49ers: A
Coach Mike Singletary is intent on building a tough, hard-hitting team with an abundance of speed at all of the skill positions. Based on the team’s draft haul, the philosophy is apparent in all of their selections. Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati add size and toughness to their offensive line, while Anthony Dixon gives them another sledgehammer to use in the running game. Defensively, the additions of safety Taylor Mays and linebacker Navorro Bowman bolster the athleticism of the unit. Given the depth of talent the 49ers acquired throughout the draft, they deserve kudos.
Round 1 (11th overall): Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers
With Joe Staley capable of playing on either side, Davis could slide over to left tackle and allow Staley to shore up the void on the right side. Regardless of the eventual configuration, the 49ers have solidified their leaky offensive line with the selection of Davis.
Round 1 (17th overall): Mike Iupati, G, Idaho
Iupati possesses the size and strength to blow defenders off the ball, and his style is an ideal fit in the 49ers’ smashmouth running game. A leaky offensive line kept the team from maximizing its potential a season ago, but the additions of Davis and Iupati have turned a position of weakness into one of strength heading into 2010.
Round 2 (49th overall): Taylor Mays, FS, Southern California
Mays blazed pre-draft workouts, and was regarded as a top-20 talent in some war rooms. Though he has some deficiencies in coverage, his size, speed and athleticism should upgrade a 49ers’ secondary that needs a difference-maker in the middle of the field.