SANTA CLARA -- It's customary to give football teams letter grades. We write report cards after games, and we write report cards after the draft, which concluded on Saturday. Here's a fair grade for the 49ers' work in the draft.
C-plus is not a good grade, but it's also not a bad grade. It's not failing, and if you get a bunch of C-pluses, you can graduate. The Niners could have had a great draft, an “A.” But their draft was merely acceptable, and that accounts for their grade.
Here's what saves their draft. Their first pick was free safety Eric Reid, a very good player. The 49ers needed a free safety because starter Dashon Goldson went to Tampa Bay for big money the 49ers didn't want to pay. So, the 49ers had a big hole at free safety. Reid filled the hole, addressed their second-biggest need — more on their biggest need in a moment.
They also get credit for drafting Cornellius Carradine, a promising defensive tackle, Vance McDonald, the kind of rugged tight end coach Jim Harbaugh understands, and Corey Lemonier, a linebacker.
Three of the first four picks were defensive players — that's admirable. And they all are “physical,” Harbaugh said physical was the theme of the 49ers' draft.
Give the Niners credit for also taking wide receiver Quinton Patton in the fourth round — it makes you wonder if wide out A.J. Jenkins is shaky. And in the fourth, they drafted Marcus Lattimore, a dynamic running back who will continue to be dynamic if he can return from a busted-up knee — he tore every ligament. They even did well in the fifth round with defensive end Quinton Dial. A team needs pass rushers galore. Starting in the sixth round they were reaching like any other team. I'll skip those picks.
You're probably wondering where the C-plus comes in considering I've praised their picks, and considering I am an easy grader.
I am not criticizing whom they took. I am criticizing the players they didn't take. They virtually ignored cornerback, and that's startling bordering on perverse. The 49ers took one cornerback, someone who did not start in college — Rutgers. His name is Marcus Cooper.