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.
Where did they draft this cornerback?
They drafted him in the compensatory section of the last round, making him the 252nd player drafted, the 30th and last cornerback taken. He was the Niners' final draft pick, the 11th player they selected. He got drafted two spots from the final spot, No.254, reserved for Mr. Irrelevant.
This is what Trent Baalke said about Cooper: "A tall corner that runs pretty well, plays pretty good football, has the traits you're looking for at the position. Hopefully we bring them in and they develop."
This is why the Niners should have been serious about drafting a cornerback — they definitely were not. The 49ers have trouble defending fast wide receivers. The 49ers could not beat the lowly Rams last season because slot receivers Danny <NO1>Amandola<NO>Amendola and Chris Givens went nuts against the San Francisco secondary.