- Mel Kiper Jr., Football analyst
The story of the draft is the acquisition of talent, but the story of NFL success is talent development. I know I can't grade a draft class regarding performance for at least a few years, which is a reason why I audit old drafts. But what I do here is assess three main things:
• How much overall talent did a team add based on board position?
• How effectively did they address key personnel needs?
• How efficient were they in maneuvering on the draft board?
And remember: I have to use my player grades as the prism. I'm well aware all NFL teams see players differently -- I have many debates with GMs throughout the year about players. I might have a high grade on a linebacker many teams see as a late-round pick. That's the reality of player evaluations.
Grading Scale: In my mind an A means it's exceptional; a B is pretty good; a C means average, with hits and misses; a D means below average with some big questions. An F ... well, I don't see any.
Top needs: CB, WR, LB, DL
Summary: The most depressing thing about San Francisco's draft is I don't even think Todd McShay and I have a single argument to be found here. The Niners just got so many good players. Jimmie Ward will cover, attack the line of scrimmage, and will play fast and fearless. If you call that a reach, remember that Arizona had taken Deone Bucannon at No. 27, so there were already three safeties off the board (not that Bucannon and Ward are that similar) and the 49ers knew if they didn't land Ward at that spot, they had no chance later. They got the No. 1 RB in the draft at No. 57. Frank Gore has a lot of miles on the odometer, LaMichael James may not be there long, and if Marcus Lattimore is your No. 1, you better have a 1-A. Carlos Hyde made sense and, again, he's the top RB in the draft. Marcus Martin is a future starter at center, Chris Borland is immediate depth at linebacker and has the experience to play now. Brandon Thomas is another 49ers redshirt, but could be a star guard when he comes back (he hurt his knee this spring, but would have gone in Round 2 otherwise). Bruce Ellington isn't a far cry from Brandin Cooks, but he went 86 picks later. It goes on and on. Dontae Johnson is solid and Aaron Lynch has developmental promise. I even like the pick at No. 245 -- Trey Millard is the top fullback in the draft and was another guy who dropped on some boards after a knee injury. What I like about this draft is the 49ers are in a championship window, and they still managed to balance both the need for immediate help and also got a lot of talent for the future. The window can remain open.
2014 draft picks
Mel Kiper grades the 2014 NFL draft for all 32 teams. The San Francisco 49ers and Jacksonville Jaguars get high marks.