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49ers Draft Trades: A Test in Evaluation Perception

steviejohnson

Coming into draft weekend, perception around the league was that the San Francisco 49ers were going to be big players in the draft. They entered the draft with 11 possible draft selections and not many immediate open spots on a roster that has gone to three consecutive NFC Championship games. Now that the weekend is over, perception from ESPN, Sports Illustrated and NFL.Com is that once again, the 49ers masterfully waved their wand over the draft process.  But did they really?

As far as overall results, that remains to be seen. Those grades are based on the entirety of their draft and they made good selections with the picks they had already previously held and used. But one thing we can look at is the plethora of trades that San Francisco made and if those were the correct decisions in totality. San Francisco and Trent Baalke have recently subscribed to the correct theory that the NFL Draft is a numbers game, but out of the five trades they made, they didn’t come away with anything extra in terms of overall selections. Here’s the final haul when the dust settled.

Traded Away

Received

Pick 56 (Cody Latimer)

Pick 57 (Carlos Hyde)

Pick 61 (Allen Robinson)

Pick 70 (Marcus Martin)

Pick 63 (Jarvis Landry)

Pick 106 (Bruce Ellington)

Pick 94 (Terrance West)

Pick 150 (Aaron Lynch)

Pick 171 (Jordan Tripp)

Pick 180 (Kenneth Acker)

Pick 242 (Corey Nelson)

Stevie Johnson

2015 4th Round Selection

2015 4th Round Selection

I’m aware that I’m taking five separate trades created by cause and effect and putting them into one apples to apples shopping cart, but let’s put them on the check out counter regardless. In terms of revisiting the draft chart again and adjusting for expected games started, the 49ers gave away far more equity than they received. In terms of judging the non skill players, it’s all we can really go off of at this point. When looking at the first four selections on the left hand side, the expected games started is worth roughly 30 games over the first three selections the Niners made. Regardless of having the Steve Johnson chip in their pocket or not, that’s not ideal brokering since they aren’t adding significant expected games later on. When looking under the hood of the players selected and what their NFL impact could be, it doesn’t really point in their favor either.

Their first trade with Denver was pick 56 in exchange for selections 63 and 171 and future fourth rounder. Then they immediately traded both of those two selections in 2014 to get back into the very next selection that Miami held. So for the addition of a future fourth rounder, they got their guy they were going to take one spot earlier. All in all a fun ruse where they got a little something for nothing.

Then you have Hyde himself, which could be foreshadowing that Marcus Lattimore is a myth. Not only that, but in a vacuum of trade circumference, theoretically they could’ve had West 37 picks after Hyde. The draft already proved that Hyde was who we thought he was compared to Jeremy Hill, but how about West, who could’ve been an undervalued rookie all along.

Player

Rookie Age

Ht

Wt

40

Vert

Broad

Car/G

Yds/G

TDs/G

RECs/G

Hyde

23.0

71

230

4.61

34.5

114

18.9

138.3

1.4

1.5

West

23.6

69

225

4.5

33.5

120

25.8

156.8

2.6

1.6

*Final Year Averages

West has lousy agility, but it’s likely Hyde does as well since he skipped out on drills at both the combine and pro day. It’s a pretty lateral comparison across the board except that West has shown to be far more of a workhorse. That may not end up mattering much in the NFL, but in terms of having an impact on future success, it’s still a mark in West’s corner. Even if you think Hyde is better and was on your board, is he 37 picks better in terms of playing in the 49er offense?

There was pretty much a consensus thought was that the 49ers needed to add a receiver or two in this draft and they did. Their lack of receiver depth has been exposed three years running and everyone was aware. We’ll get to Stevie in a moment, but let’s compare the three receivers they forfeited the rights to in comparison to the one they selected by looking at their College Career Graphs.

sfwr1

Ellington has some nice qualities, but there’s a reason he was available 43 picks later than Landry, the last of three receivers taken on the left hand side of the table. You can point to the fact that there’s probably no way that the 49ers would’ve selected three receivers in an eight pick span, which is fair, but it’s no secret that they have been in quandary at the position and still remain in one for the future. Selecting one or two long term high ceiling guys in the ilk of Latimer or Robinson is more likely to pay off than betting that Ellington reaches his ceiling.

James Todd offered a rapid reaction to the Stevie Johnson trade and here’s what the 49ers currently have in house at the top of their receiver depth chart before the addition of Ellington.

Player 2014 Age Ht Wt FA Year
Michael Crabtree 27 74 215 2015
Stevie Johnson 28 74 210 2017
Anquan Boldin 34 73 218 2016
Quinton Patton 23 72 204 2017

Johnson can be used as leverage for the team if they are unable to retain Crabtree, and Ellington is likely insurance for Johnson if he doesn’t work out. But there’s no true lead receiver player amongst that group for the future. Looking at their WR Career Graphs, it’s also a group that is very similar in what they provide for an offense, including what we believe Ellington’s strengths are.

SFWR

Johnson has been a declining asset three years running, and the 49ers could be blinded a bit by the success they had when trading for Boldin a year ago, but even his performance was steady before the deal. There’s also the looming issue that the NFL league wide average for percentage of plays using three wide receivers or more was 50.3 percent a year ago and the 49ers were at 26 percent. Part of that could be depth chart induced, but it’s a given that there aren’t many opportunities out there for the third receiver short term if the offense is on script.

The big reason the 49ers have been a perpetual bridesmaid is they can’t score enough points when it matters. Pulling up the NFL Drive Scoring App illustrates that the 49ers actually are fairly good at getting to the red zone under Greg Roman, but very poor at converting those trips to touchdowns.

Team

Year

# Drives

Pts/Drive

PPD Rank

MTRZ

MTRZ Rank

RZ TD

RZ Rank

SF

2011

220

1.86

12

0.33

12.5

0.52

29

SF

2012

208

2.29

4

0.4

3

0.62

19.5

SF

2013

215

2.01

11

0.35

9

0.6

23

 MTRZ = % of drives that made it to the red zone; RZTD = % of drives that made it to red zone that resulted in a TD

The 49ers have kicked 11 more red zone field goals than the next highest team since 2011. In terms of percentage of red zone plays that are field goal attempts, they are also first over that span as well.

Top 5 Teams Since 2011 in FG% in RZ

Tm

RZ Plays

FG

FG ATT

FG % of Plays

SFO

534

67

72

13.5%

BAL

467

55

58

12.4%

ARI

398

42

48

12.1%

CHI

432

49

52

12.0%

TEN

375

43

45

12.0%

To be fair, most of the 49ers group has actually been very good individually in the red zone throughout their careers, including tight end Vernon Davis and the newly acquired Johnson. So the issue of not scoring more touchdowns doesn’t seem to be entirely personnel based, if at all.

All in all, it’s very hard to see the short or long term gain for the 49ers from these trades. But hell, the same thing happened two years ago when they moved all around the draft and they survived. Their team is already so good that it can mask most of the blemishes that could appear from these deals. Most discount half of their selections as luxury picks as well, which is a sham in perception as well, but that’s for another time. The team success will likely keep the perception that they are some kind of draft wizards for most of the league, but eventually the miscalculation and overconfidence that accompanies most of these deals will catch up.

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