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The 49ers have gotten little return for bold drafting of torn ACLs

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 20:  San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke speaks to the media during a press conference where Chip Kelly was announced as the new head coach of the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on January 20, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s entirely reasonable that the 49ers extended Tank Carradine’s contract yesterday because they thought his transition to outside linebacker was going smoothly, and he’d be a valuable part for years to come.

But it’s at least plausible that the move was done in part to save face, as he’s the only real contributor of the seven-man class of outside-the-box draft picks of General Manager Trent Baalke.

At a time when the 49ers were awash in picks, Baalke developed a habit of drafting guys with torn ACLs, the ultimate buy-low strategy in hopes of getting a bargain once those guys got healthy. The only problem was, they either never did or never played to a form to suggest they were worth the gamble.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com breaks down the list, which tilts clearly in one direction.

Carradine, their 2013 second-rounder, is the star of the class. But he was perhaps miscast to begin with, as he gained weight to play defensive tackle, then lost it so he could be a pass-rushing outside linebacker.

Running back Marcus Lattimore, their 2013 fourth-rounder, never played a regular season or preseason game for the 49ers after a grisly knee injury in college (which was more than a simple ACL tear). Guard Brandon Thomas, their 2014 third-rounder, tore his ACL in a predraft workout with the Saints, and Baalke said he had a second-round grade. He was traded to the Lions two weeks ago without playing a snap, and the Lions cut him and put him on their practice squad.

Cornerback Keith Reaser, their 2014 fifth-rounder, played in 13 games last year with no starts. Fullback Trey Miller, a 2014 seventh-rounder, was released in first cuts last year, and he went on to tear another ACL for the Chiefs last week.

On Monday, the 49ers announced 2016 third-round cornerback Will Redmond was going on injured reserve, and they reached an an injury settlement with 2015 fourth-round wide receiver DeAndre Smelter, who never played a preseason game.

Whether the kids were mishandled (Redmond played in the preseason finale), or whether the 49ers simply made bad decisions is a matter for debate.

But it seems clear that after burning so many picks on unconventional players, that there might be a reason they were outside the box to begin with. Because maybe, that’s where they belonged, no matter how hard Baalke tried to jam them in there to prove how clever he was.

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20 Responses to “The 49ers have gotten little return for bold drafting of torn ACLs”
  1. zackd2 says: Sep 7, 2016 5:53 AM

    Oh please, the media and draft community absolutely loved these picks. They were all STEALS of the draft. Now Harbauhh left and it’s open season on the 49ers lol come on

    Not even a 49ers fan.

  2. number1hawkfan says: Sep 7, 2016 6:00 AM

    If Baalke hasn’t proved already he’s terrible, trying to save face on this would prove it. The best thing about what Pete and John have done in Seattle is take chances and fix them if they don’t work even if it makes them look bad. Releasing Harvin and paying Matt Flynn and benching him for Wilson are great examples. Listen, I hate the Niners. But what Baalke has done is sad. #everybodyhasitbetter literally.

  3. rhone16 says: Sep 7, 2016 6:08 AM

    Reports of Carradine at OLB have been fairly positive and I don’t think Baalke cares what we think of him. The extension is simply about getting another inexpensive year out of a guy they think can produce as a pass rushing specialist.

  4. jdphx says: Sep 7, 2016 6:08 AM

    Why does Baalke even still have a job?

  5. putthatkoolaiddown says: Sep 7, 2016 6:29 AM

    I’m surprised that nobody id talking about the way the 49ers duped their fans into buying seat licenses then tanked the franchise to max out the profits. This drafting strategy is just further proof that York and Baalke are just about the profits.

  6. sweetzinger says: Sep 7, 2016 6:35 AM

    Regardless of injuries, maybe they were just bad draft picks to begin with, even if they were completely healthy

  7. dansardo says: Sep 7, 2016 7:37 AM

    No question that the 49r organization and ownership has Ben a hot mess for a while but this article is laying it on kind of thick. It not like they had a “slew” of first and second rounders that didn’t work out. You can get a hof player in the 4th round but much more likely if he is still in the league in some capacity beyond his rookie contract you got more than you bargained for.

  8. truninerfan49 says: Sep 7, 2016 7:43 AM

    The strategy wasn’t bad when the 49ers had a loaded roster 3 years ago. He could afford to stash guys and hope they got healthy and became studs. But, to continue this strategy when your team sucks and you need guys to confetti he now makes no sense.

  9. zinnsand21 says: Sep 7, 2016 9:29 AM

    Drafting any injury is a bad bet. Folks see all these Vets coming back from torn ACl’s but forget these are vets with experience. Take any rookie and realize a majority of them won’t play much in their first season then add an ACL rehab and you are really behind the 8 ball..

  10. braceyourselffor12 says: Sep 7, 2016 9:42 AM

    I mentioned this on another article but it bears repeating:

    I’ve lost count on the Baalke draft picks and signings that end up on IR and never pan out. This gut would have a hard time being a scout let alone GM on any other team. But because he’s a sycophant he’s a ‘Jed York’ type of guy.

    They let Harbaugh go because they wanted to “Win with class”. Well since he’s been gone we haven’t done much winning or been classy. So I guess chalk one up for the York brain trust for putting a silver spoon fed trust fund baby in charge of a multi-billion dollar franchise.

    Oh and Harbaugh has once again turned around ANOTHER football program into a contender. Jed York: the gift to the NFC West rivals that keeps on giving

  11. collectordude says: Sep 7, 2016 10:03 AM

    Ballke should have been fired at the end of last season.

  12. decon49 says: Sep 7, 2016 11:15 AM

    Baalke building the acl all stars

  13. nflgtcfl says: Sep 7, 2016 11:28 AM

    Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

  14. joetoronto says: Sep 7, 2016 11:47 AM

    This team is a hot mess from top to bottom.

  15. haywoodjablomey says: Sep 7, 2016 3:10 PM

    What’s even more frustrating than wasting those picks on ACL drafts, is the number of players that are drafted by the 49ers, and waived – but then snatched up by another (more recently successful) franchise, where they go on to be a good producer.

    And why does this guy draft 3-4 corner backs every draft?

  16. omeimontis says: Sep 8, 2016 9:27 AM

    That is pretty cynical to call Carradine’s extensi0on a face saving move. Tank Carradine played well, getting a QB sack in 2014 but he was given a roughing the QB penalty on the same play. After that then DC Vic Fangio sat him down pretty much for the rest of the season. 2015 was not a good season for the 9ers because of bad coaching. Carradine was not the only one misused by Tomsula.

    Carradine had an outstanding preseason in 2016, getting to the qb consistently and he is in the final year of his rookie contract. They can either extend him now or risk losing him to free agency at the end of the season. It is a smart move. The Niners do not do with the Sea Hogs do, and that is to allow good players to leave via free agency by extending them before their contract is up. The Niners extended NaVarro Bowman’s contract a short while ago for the same reason. They only allow overrated and overpaid players like Alex Boone, Perrish Cox, Chris Culliver and Donte Whitner to leave.

  17. omeimontis says: Sep 8, 2016 10:04 AM

    I notice there are a lot of Baalke bashing trolls here and elsewhere. They are not 49er fans, and they ignore facts

    Baalke has done well with the draft. Trent Brown for example is the starting RT for the Niners, and he managed to keep his job despite competition from Anthony Davis, who returned after a one year hiatus. Other good picks include starting RB Carlos Hyde, S Eric Reid, and CB Jimmi Ward, all starters on D, and the Niners have a pretty good D based on the preseason Two more draft picks, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead, are starters on the D line. Aaron Lynch, who is serving a suspension, Eli Harold, and Quinton Dial are the other starters who were drafted by Baalke. WR Quinton Patton and TE Vance McDonald are Baalke draft picks who will be starting.

    His record shows that he is a better GM than John the Turkey Schneider of Seattle, who had a single good draft early in his career and he has underperformed ever since Yet nobody is calling Schneider to be fired. Why? Because there is no campaign to destroy the 9ers. The ugly campaign started when some in the media was bashing Harbaugh week in and week out since the preseason in 2014. After they succeeded in forcing Harbaugh to quit, they are trying to do the same to Kap, Baalke and York. They want Kap to be cut by the Niners, and Baalke and York to be fired Why? Because these people are all responsible for the recent success the Niners had. 3 straight NFC Championship appearances, and 1 Super Bowl appearance. That is the best the Niners have done since the 1994 season, the last time they won a Super Bowl. How can anyone claim that the Niners have been mismanaged, unless they are biased campaigners bent on destroying the Niners.

  18. omeimontis says: Sep 8, 2016 10:08 AM

    TYpo, there is no campaign to destroy the Sea Hogs, but there is an active campaign to destroy the Niners by calling for the Niners to cut Colin Kaepernick, for Roger Goodell to suspend Kap and for the owners to fire both Trent Baalke and Jed York.

    The campaign has failed. Kap is still with the Niners, and York won’t fire Baalke. York’s parents, who own the Niners, know that their son is doing a great job. They won’t fire him.

  19. iggydog says: Sep 8, 2016 12:37 PM

    @omeimontis Trent Dilfer, is that you?

    Baalke’s draft record is not terrible. His success rate is about average for the league. Trouble is, he’s good at finding the supporting cast, but not very good at finding the stars. Of all the players you mention, only Eric Reid has even sniffed the pro bowl. As a drafter, Trent Baalke has, at best, delivered mediocrity to the 49ers. Whoo hoo.

    Regarding the “campaign to destroy the Niners:” Rush Limbaugh, is that you?

  20. alphabeta49er says: Sep 8, 2016 12:54 PM

    Sorry omeimontis, but the real campaign to destroy the 49ers comes from within.

    And keep in mind that Scot McCloughan drafted all the talent for both SF and Seattle. Neither Baalke nor Schneider have great track records on draft day. And yes, Baalke has drafted a lot of starters. Starters on a 5-11 team.

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