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Just The Facts - By Bryan Hersh

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Recently, the 49ers first round picks have consisted of: Rashaun Woods, Kwame Harris, Mike Rumph, Andre Carter, Julian Peterson, Ahmed Plummer, Reggie McGrew, R.W. McQuarters, Jim Drukenmiller, Israel Ifeanyi, JJ Stokes and Bryant Young. For those of you who are paying attention, you may have noticed that I had to go all the way back to 1995 in order to find a 49ers first round draft pick that is 1) still with the team, and 2) will be starting this Sunday. Amazingly, in recent years, the 49ers have had overwhelmingly better success in the second round of the draft than the first.

Now, to be fair, Harris, Rumph, Carter, Peterson and Plummer are all missing in action this week due to injury and Woods will play sparingly. But if the 49ers canít get their top level talent on the field either because they are not developed, never did developed or cannot stay healthy, well I think that points to a larger problem for this team. Mainly that it is disadvantaged every time it steps on the field.

In his rookie season Rashaun Woods has failed to crack the starting line-up and failed to move up the depth charts. In his second season Kwame Harris lost his job at left tackle to injury and to the better play of Kyle Kosier who was picked second last by the 49ers in 2002. Mike Rumph is injured, but he did show he had first round talent. Andre Carter has been a disappointment on the 49ers disappearing when the team needs him most. Carter is out with an injury. Julian Peterson is a stellar player; his injury might be the only way the 49ers can afford to re-sign him. Ahmed Plummer is an average cornerback in the NFL who lucked into a huge contract this off-season despite what appears to be a chronic injury (in other words future dead money). McGrew, McQuarters, Drukenmiller, Ifeanyi, and Stokes were all busts who are no longer with the team.

For whatever reason the 49ers appear to have bad luck drafting in the first round pretty much since 1995. The team has only been able to get one Pro Bowl player out of that group. This to me speaks to some sort of problem with the teams scouting and drafting processes. The team has been known to miss on players with injuries that materialize once they are drafted, or to envision a player changing position, or simply miss-read the talent of a given player. What gives?

The 49ers need to find a way to get their first round talent developed, on the field, and contributing. They need to draft more effectively in the first round, and they need those draft picks to materialize as top level talent in the NFL. If the team continues to fail in this area, it will struggle for a long, long time, because free agency and the 49ers do not seem to mix very well anymore. If the future is through the draft, than the 49ers better re-consider how they draft for the future.

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