Stating that a team had an excellent draft is a little like predicting a toddler will grow up to be a brain surgeon. There might be hints of future greatness, but you never really know. (Sorry, mom). But if I was forced to put a grade on the 49ers' draft, it would be pretty close to perfect, maybe even an A. Sure, the team didn't address two of the positions, offensive tackle and pass-rushing linebacker, officials had cited as needs in the offseason. But if they had, it might have meant they were reaching for players who didn't fit into their plan.
What do I mean? In the days leading up to the draft, I watched at lot of NFL Network. One of the more intriguing features was one in which former GMs Charley Casserly and Michael Lombardi talked about the best drafts they had been a part of. Casserely picked the Redskins' 1981 draft, one that brought in two of the Hogs, Russ Grimm and Mark May, as well as Dexter Manley, receiver Charlie Brown and tight end Clint Didier. Lombardi spoke about the 49ers' famous 1986 draft, the one in which Bill Walsh and John McVay found John Taylor, Tom Rathman, Tim McKyer and Charles Haley.
The theme of both drafts was that the two teams had a well-defined plan going into the draft and stuck to it throughout. The teams targeted very specific players, players who fit their profile. If they thought they could get those players later in the draft, they simply traded down. "Before we finally selected a player, we had collected three third-round picks, three fourth-round picks and a first-round pick in the 1987 draft," Lombardi said. "Walsh conducted a clinic that day, moving around the draft, but the real success came in the players we picked."
The 49ers seem to have accomplished that essential task this weekend. Ever since he took over the 49ers, Mike Singletary has been preaching toughness. He wants players who don't make mental mistakes, who don't turn the ball over, who take over games in the fourth quarter. Each of the players drafted this weekend fit that mold, beginning with Michael Crabtree. The only way the 49ers would have used a first-round pick on a receiver is if that receiver A.) was a playmaker. B.) had size C.) was physical D.) could block downfield. Crabtree goes four for four on that list.
The other players also fit nicely into that tough-minded mold. Running back Glen Coffee was described over and over as a downhill runner. When GM Scot McCloughan watched him on tape, he thought he was looking at a much bigger man. Coffee weighs about 210 pounds. In a few years, McCloughan said, Coffee will be up around 220.
Scot McKillop is the ultimate blue-collar player. He wrestled and played football at a small high school and had only one scholarship offer - from Pitt. He is as gritty as they come. When players started emerging from the pile at the Senior Bowl, McKillop was invariably at the bottom with his arms wrapped around the ball carrier. The 49ers are hoping he will be the heir to the "Ted" linebacker position who will pair with Patrick Willis for the next decade or so.
Bear Pascoe was working in the barn on his parents' farm when the 49ers called to say they were going to draft him. Pascoe described himself as having a high threshold for pain. Pain tolerance? What kind of draft pick talks about that topic? A tough guy, that's who.
Even the quarterback seems to fit the blue-collar mold. McCloughan described Nate Davis as having a strong arm and a sturdy lower body, one that can remain planted as the pocket breaks down and defenders flail about at his legs. Davis also comes to the 49ers with a massive chip on his shoulder. Once considered a top QB candidate, Davis suffered the double indignity of having just one team - the nearby Indianapolis Colts - show up at his pro day workout at Ball State and then falling to one of the final picks in the fifth round. Yes, the 49ers must bring their new quarterback along slowly. But his skill set just might make Davis worth the wait.
-- Matt Barrows