The history of the NFL draft is rife with tales of players who showed a great deal of promise in the college ranks yet failed to transition their talent to the league once they were drafted. This Thursday, 32-teams will embark on the ultimate crapshoot and as such their fortunes will hinge on their ability or lack thereof to make the correct selections.
Former San Francisco 49ers GM, Trent Baalke was given the keys to the team’s draft beginning in 2010, after Scot McCloughan left the team for personal reasons. In the seven drafts that Baalke ran, it’s safe to say that he produced far more misses than hits with the players he selected.
Here we look at Baalke’s Top-10 draft busts and believe me there were many to choose from. The criteria for making this list is based on players who were selected from rounds one through four. Players who were picked lower than that can’t really be considered busts since they are mostly not expected to be world beaters.
If they do in fact become that, it’s a bonus not the expectation. Truthfully I was hesitant to go as low as the 4th round but thought it was the best idea when comprising this list.
10. Taylor Mays – S- 2nd Round 2010 Draft – #49 overall – Mays played for Pete Carroll at USC from 2006 to 2009 and by all accounts he was a speedy, savvy, safety who was going to make whichever GM that drafted him very proud. The fact that Mays was sitting there when the 49ers picked in the second round was a surprise.
There was some speculation that Mays was not as fluid as many thought. That he was stiff and showed subpar coverage skills. Even with his speed (4.43 40-time at the 2010 NFL Combine Mays failed to make an impact with the 49ers.
In his lone season in red and gold he played in all 16 games and started six. He ended the 2010 season with 38-tackles, two passes defensed, and one forced fumble. He was traded to the Cincinnati Bengals on August 22, 2011 for a seventh-round pick.
9. Kendall Hunter – RB – 4th Round, 2011 Draft – #115 overall – Hunter actually showed signs of being a good alternative to starting running back, Frank Gore but he could never stay healthy. In the three seasons that he actually played, Hunter amassed 1,202 yards on 262 carries with seven touchdowns. He also added in 27-catches for 268-yards.
Hunter tore his Achilles tendon late in the 2012 season and therefore was not available for the 49ers Super Bowl run that year.
On July 26, 2014 he was carted off the field with a knee injury which was revealed to be a torn ACL, the team waived him in August 5, 2014. He never played another down for the 49ers.
8. Quinton Patton – WR – 4th Round, 2013 Draft – #128 overall – Patton was drafted with the future in mind. He began his rookie season as the backup to Mario Manningham, the 49ers No. 3 receiver.
His rookie season was a virtual wash as he finished the 2013 season with 3-catches for 34-yards. 2014 was no better as he posted a line of 3-catches for 44- yards.
After the departures of Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin in respective years, Patton was called on to play a more integral role on offense. Even with that being the case his combined stats for 2015 and 2016 were 67-catches for 802-yards, and one-touchdown.
Patton was not offered a contract under the new regime of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan. He signed with the New York Jets on March 23, 2017.
7. Marcus Lattimore – RB – 4th Round, 2013 Draft – #131 overall – Unfortunately there isn’t much we can say about Lattimore other than his selection was a typical Baalke gaffe. Lattimore was a great player in his time at the University of South Carolina.
He would have been a surefire first round pick if, in 2012 he hadn’t suffered one of the most gruesome knee injuries the sport has ever seen.
Lattimore dislocated his kneecap, tore every ligament in his knee, and also suffered extensive nerve damage. He would never play another down in college or the NFL. Just another case of Baalke wasting a draft pick on a player coming off of a serious knee injury.
To date, none of his picks who fall under this category have managed to make much of an impact, if any at all.
6. Carlos Hyde – RB – 2nd Round, 2014 Draft, # 57 overall – Some might balk at my placing Hyde at Baalke’s #6 worst draft bust, let alone on this list at all. Hear me out though. Since Hyde was drafted he has been injured every year of his career.
In three seasons has carried the ball 415 times for 1,791-yards, and 13-touchdowns, mostly because his running style (something he’s been very vocal about not changing) leads to more wear and tear on his body.
For the player who was drafted to be the heir apparent to the teams all-time leading rusher, Frank Gore, these stats just don’t cut it
With the front office giving tempered praise in regard to Hyde, it clear the 49ers will look to select a running back in this week’s draft who will be expected to push Hyde and see if the can salvage his career in San Francisco.
5. Aldon Smith – OLB – 1st Round 2011 Draft – #7 overall – I don’t want to hear about Smith’s stats, or how he was on pace to be one of the best pass-rushers in NFL history before the 49ers were forced to release him.
His rap sheet and inability to be anything close to a functioning member of an NFL team, let alone society paint the “bust” label all over this once astonishingly great player. His alleged hit and run while driving under the influence and vandalism charges were the last straw and the 49ers released him on August 7, 2015.
4. LaMichael James – RB – 2nd Round 2012 Draft – #61 overall – Just one more running back drafted by Baalke who failed to amount to anything. (Jury is still out on Carlos Hyde and what longevity he’ll have under Lynch and Shanahan) Perhaps the 49ers failed to utilize James correctly as he put up some astounding numbers under head coach Chip Kelly at Oregon.
Whether or not the former is true, or his stats were a direct result of Kelly’s gimmick offense up in Eugene is irrelevant. James was released by the 49ers in 2014.
He managed to catch on with the Miami Dolphins as a member of their practice squad less than a month later. He ended that season with three-carries for nine-yards. He hasn’t played a down in the NFL since.
3. Brandon Thomas – G – 3rd Round 2014 Draft – #100 overall – Another All-ACL team member. Thomas tore the ligament during a pre-draft workout with the New Orleans Saints, roughly a month before the 2014 draft.
Thomas never played a single snap for the 49ers, not good for a 3rd round selection, even though it was a comp pick in that draft.
Just one more example of how Baalke thought he was smarter than everyone else and did all he could to prove it pick after pick.
Some of the players he passed on with the 100th pick, Devonta Freeman, (#103 overall) Martavis Bryant, (#118 overall) and David Yankey (#145 overall).
What made this pick even worse is that the 49ers were drafting for the future on the offensive line as well as for depth. Failure all the way around from Baalke.
Thomas was traded to the Detroit Lions on August 29, 2016 for wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. He was then waived by Lions on September 3rd, signed to their practice squad and then and signed to reserve/futures on January 9, 2017.
2. Marcus Martin – C – 3rd Round, 2014 Draft – #70 overall – Martin bests Thomas on this list simply because he was drafted higher, at a time when the 49ers needed to hit on their offensive line picks.
The Lynch/Shanahan duo released Martin this offseason when it was realized that he would not be anything close to a good fit for the latter’s zone running scheme. His release also means that not one of Baalke’s three third round picks from the 2014 draft are on the roster now.
Although linebacker Chris Borland was on his way to becoming a mainstay before he retired following his rookie season.
1. A.J. Jenkins – WR – 1st Round 2012 Draft – #30 overall – By far the most egregious of “Baalke’s Busts”. Jenkins is crystal clear proof that the the ousted GM had zero ability or foresight in drafting offensive skill position players, most notably wide receivers.
After being drafted in 2012, he was only active for three-games that season, even though he was completely healthy. He saw action on a mere 37-offensive plays and was only targeted one time, a pass which he subsequently dropped.
A Baalke first-round pick could not crack the game day roster for the first 13-games of his rookie season.
He was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013 for another bust, receiver Jon Baldwin. He managed to make his first career reception on September 19, 2013. The pass went for 6-yards, 511-days after he was a first round pick. He was released by Kansas City on February 17, 2015. He never played another down in the NFL.