You can’t give the 49ers any higher grade for their draft this weekend, even if you focus solely on the positives.
Or the positive, singular.
I’m talking BYU linebacker Fred Warner, whom the Niners drafted in Round 3. He was their best pick. Let’s start with him. You can’t say the Niners reached for Warner — he was the 70th selection. That’s exactly where he should have gone. He was a tremendous value for the 49ers.
And he addressed a need. Starting linebacker Reuben Foster could face a suspension from the NFL next season, or he could go to prison. For now, Foster is Option 1A at middle linebacker. The 49ers need a 1B.
Warner is their 1B. He can start at middle linebacker as a rookie — he’s that good. The 49ers protected themselves in case they lose Foster. Smart.
The rest of their draft wasn’t.
They passed on the highest-rated player available in Round 1 — Derwin James, the safety from Florida State. He later went to the Los Angeles Chargers, who use the same defensive scheme the 49ers use. James would have been perfect for the Niners.
But, they couldn’t take him even if they wanted. They had to draft offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, because they had to fill a need they were about to create the following morning when they traded right tackle Trent Brown to the New England Patriots.
The 49ers didn’t upgrade by trading Brown, who has more raw talent than McGlinchey. Some consider Brown best right tackle in the NFL. Denver Broncos All-Pro outside linebacker Von Miller certainly thinks so. He called Brown the best right tackle more than once the past couple years. Even Kyle Shanahan has called Brown one of the most talented pass protectors of all time.
Brown is only 25. And yet, the 49ers gave up on him. They traded him and a fifth-round pick to the Patriots for a late third rounder. The Niners sold low.
Bill Belichick can bring out Brown’s enormous talent. You can bet the Patriots will win this trade. Belichick is not in the business of losing.
The 49ers should have kept Brown and drafted James. Trading Brown and replacing him with McGlinchey was a mistake.
In Round 2, the Niners made their biggest mistake of the draft. They traded up for Dante Pettis, a wide receiver from Washington.
The Niners didn’t have to trade up for Pettis. He probably would have been available in Round 3. And he didn’t fill a hole on the roster. The 49ers already have their starting wide receivers. Which one of the top three will Pettis beat out next season? Anyone?
Pettis’s best position is punt returner. He can make the first couple of guys miss, and wend his way through traffic. He’s marvelous.
But, as a receiver, he’s a tweener. He’s nowhere near as fast as Marquise Goodwin, nor is he a possession receiver like Pierre Garcon. Garcon is wide and sturdy — 6 feet, 210 pounds. Pettis is light and narrow — 6-2 195.
Pettis can line up in the slot for the 49ers and run gadget plays and jet sweeps and reverses. Cute stuff. But, so can Trent Taylor, the slot receiver the 49ers drafted last year. Taylor returns punts, too. He and Pettis have similar abilities, although Pettis probably is better.