The 32 teams of the National Football League will roll the dice again tonight as they start the three-day process of drafting what they hope will be their future stars.
There are only three things we know for sure before the first player is selected:
–Any team that suggests who or what it’s going to draft is lying. (The only exception is the team with the first pick, and then only if they’ve already signed the guy to a contract.)
–One-third of the first round picks will be worth the money they get, one-third will be overpaid journey men, and one-third will be busts.
–We won’t know how well each team has done in the draft for at least two or three years.
But Northern California fans know one thing for sure: Since the 2012 draft, the trend line has been down for the 49ers and up for the Raiders. You can blame Trent Baalke and give credit to Reggie McKenzie.
Former coach Jim Harbaugh’s ability to get the 49ers players to go all out during his four-year tenure (he could probably motivate a fire hydrant to move) obscured the fact that the team has done poorly in the draft since Baalke started calling the shots in 2011.
Since then, only one of Baalke’s 50 picks have been voted to the Pro Bowl or All-Pro. Since 2012, numerous players taken in the first three rounds of the draft have been duds. Remember A.J. Jenkins, LaMichael James, Van McDonald, Tank Carridine, Corey Lemonier and Brandon Thomas?
A team that used to have a roster full of household names now has just one–quarterback Colin Kaepernick–and he may be gone in a draft-day trade if the 49ers decide to move up to get their next QB of the future. The two best QBs are expected to be gone when the 49ers pick seventh, but there are a couple of other prospects who may be serviceable players for the team. Or they just may trade for Sam Bradford, coach Chip Kelly’s starter at Philadelphia who apparently wants out.
McKenzie solved Oakland’s quarterback problem in 2014 when he drafted Derek Carr out of Fresno State. With two solid years behind him, Carr is ready to become a star. He’ll have plenty of help winning games, thanks to some good drafts and free agent signings.
Among the stars of the future McKenzie has drafted are Khalil Mack, who was considered an All-Pro linebacker AND defensive end last year, and wide receiver Amari Cooper, the kind of game changer the 49ers have been trying to find since Jerry Rice retired.
McKenzie’s success is even more impressive when you realize he took over a team that had several bad drafts in a row and an inflated payroll full of free agent duds, the legacy of former Raiders owner Al Davis. McKenzie spent two years clearing out the debris before he could really start rebuilding the team.
You never know how a draft is going to play out, but right now you want to put your money on McKenzie–especially if the Raiders end up moving to Vegas.