Taken in the 30th spot by the Jets in 2008, tight end Dustin Keller has been a very good NFL player. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
What kind of player can the 49ers expect to get with the 30th overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft?
Based on recent history, results are mixed. Based on what 49ers' General Manager Trent Baalke did in the draft last year – getting a productive crop of rookies throughout the selection process – there is reason for optimism.
Since 2000, players taken at No. 30 have included breakout stars and busts.
The Chargers, selecting twice at No. 30, have struck out twice, first with Texas A&M cornerback Sammy Davis in 2003 and then with wide receiver Craig “Buster” Davis of LSU in 2007.
But some very productive players have emerged from the 30th spot in that span, such as these (listed with selecting teams): Lions running back Jahvid Best (2010), Titans receiver Kenny Britt (2009), Jets tight end Dustin Keller (2008), Colts running back Joseph Addai (2006), Steelers tight end Heath Miller (2005), Colts receiver Reggie Wayne (2001) and Titans linebacker Keith Bullock (2000).
Overall, there have been more hits than misses at No. 30 over the past 12 years, so the spot clearly has high value.
Though the 49ers essentially have no glaring needs – the only vacant starting position is at right guard, and the thin corps of wide receivers has been fattened by the signing of free agents Mario Manningham and Randy Moss – they could use their first-round choice to select the best player available, address a need or deal it away if the opportunity arises.
There has been speculation that the 49ers might be interested in either trading up from No. 30 in the first round for a shot at wide receiver Michael Floyd of Notre Dame, for instance, or that the 49ers might make an offer to restricted free-agent wide receiver Mike Wallace of the Steelers, which would entail San Francisco giving up its first-round pick to Pittsburgh.
If the 49ers made either move, they’d likely wind up with a high-value player, perhaps better than any player they could land with the 30th overall selection. But moving up from No. 30 for Floyd – or anyone else – might mean giving up an additional pick as well.
And even the lower picks can be productive, as Baalke showed last year. In 2011, the impact (or potential impact) players taken by the 49ers in the draft were: defensive end/linebacker Aldon Smith in the first round, quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the second round, cornerback Chris Culliver in the third, running back Kendall Hunter in the fourth, guard Daniel Kilgore in the fifth and fullback Bruce Miller in the seventh.
As is often the case, the people making the evaluations and selections are more important than the specific spot in the order a team drafts in the first round and beyond.