Grading The 49ers' 2011 NFL Draft 5 Years Later

Nearly five years have passed since the 2011 NFL Draft. It was a very strong draft, with players like Cam Newton, Von Miller, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Patrick Peterson and J.J. Watt all going in the top 11 picks. While not every team ended up with a strong draft, the San Francisco 49ers did. 

Now that five years have passed, we have a solid idea of just how good the players from that class are. Things can still change, and the view of the 49ers' 2011 draft class looks a little bit different than it did last season. The 2011 class was the first under Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh, and the team walked away with several key pieces that were integral in their 2012 Super Bowl run. They missed on a few players, as every team does each year, but the 49ers had a successful 2011 NFL Draft. Here's our grade and breakdown of the 49ers' 2011 draft. 

Day One:
LB Aldon Smith, Missouri - Round 1, Pick #7

After his first two years, Smith looked like a home-run selection. He had 33.5 sacks in those two years, 3.5 more than Miller did in the same time frame. But that was Smith's peak, as troubles with the law and substance abuse cut into his playing time. The 49ers, fed up with Smith after his third DUI, cut him before the start of the 2015 season. He signed with the Oakland Raiders and played well before being suspended for an entire year on November 17th. Smith is by no means a bad pick, but he didn't quite live up to the potential he showed early in his career. 

Day Two:
QB Colin Kaepernick, Nevada - Round 2, Pick #36
CB Chris Culliver, South Carolina - Round 3, Pick #80

Much like Smith, the future of these players with the 49ers has changed in a year. Kaepernick was benched this year, and it seemed like he was sure to be cut. However, the hiring of Chip Kelly might mean Kaepernick is staying in San Francisco. Kaepernick is a perfect fit for Kelly's offense and could recapture his previous form. After all, he did help the 49ers go to a Super Bowl. Culliver ran into some discipline and injury problems, but played well for the 49ers. He left the team to join the Washington Redskins before this season, but was injured before the year started. The 49ers got plenty out of their third round pick, although getting a little bit more by finding a way to keep him would have been nice. 

Day Three: 
RB Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State - Round 4, Pick #115
OL Daniel Kilgore, Appalachian State - Round 5, Pick #163
WR Ronald Johnson, USC - Round 5, Pick #182
S Colin Jones, TCU - Round 6, Pick #190
OL Mike Person, Montana State - Round 7, Pick #239
FB Bruce Miller, UCF - Round 7, Pick #211
CB Curtis Holcomb, FAMU  - Round 7, Pick #250

The Niners had plenty of picks on Day Three and did pretty well. Johnson, Jones and Holcomb are out of the league, while Person has bounced around with a few teams. The team missed on those players, but did get some contribution from Kendall Hunter before releasing him this year. Kilgore has developed into a starter when healthy and Miller has been the starting FB for years. Getting two starters from Day 3 is impressive. 

Ian Williams, DL, Notre Dame

Undrafted free agents absolutely count for a team's draft class, and the 49ers found a starter in Williams. He's not an all-world nose guard, but he started every game this season. Getting him was a nice boost for the 49ers. 

Grade: B+

The 49ers had 10 draft picks and ended up with six starters, including Williams. While a few of those players are now gone, the 49ers did a great job in 2011. The difference between a B and an A is going because of Smith's issues and Kaepernick. If Kaepernick can rebound and play well in Kelly's system, this grade will be a bit too low. If he continues to struggle, this grade is a bit too high. For now, this is a strong draft class. 

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