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History shows 49ers shouldn’t tank to get first overall pick



As the 49ers make a change at quarterback, fans fret about their future. What if the team suddenly clicks and starts winning games over the next five weeks and drops out of contention for the first overall pick?

The first overall is sexy no doubt. By definition, that pick is supposed to be a franchise player, a potential Hall of Famer and in 20 years, he supposed stand on the team emblem at halftime and have his number retired. But as we see in an analysis over the past 10 years, that rarely happens, particularly with quarterbacks.

Jemarcus Russell, Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton and Jared Goff have all been picked with the first overall choice in the last decade. Russell famously flamed out with the Raiders, Bradford never developed into a world beater, the Buccaneers are still waiting on Winston, Luck started out fabulously and is now idled with a career-threatening shoulder injury, Stafford might be close to warranting his draft selection, and Goff, after a slow start, is becoming a big deal in L.A., and Newton is the most highly-decorated with Pro Bowls, Super Bowls and an MVP trophy.

The other players, Kansas City tackle Eric Fisher, Texans defensive tackle Jadevon Clowney and Cleveland linebacker Myles Garrett are functional but hardly fantastic, particularly Fisher, who’s been merely average as a Chief. It’s too early to judge Garrett.

The point is No.1 overall doesn’t guarantee future riches. However, the 49ers could fetch a bounty in future picks by dealing the No.1 choice.

Consider that as many as 18 teams could be hunting for the next great quarterback. And while a lot can happen between now and draft day, most of the buzz for the first overall pick centers around quarterbacks Sam Darnold (USC), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) and Josh Allen (Wyoming). Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is also in the discussion.

Right now, there’s no clear coveted player that everyone wants. Consequently, the 49ers need not be concerned with tanking games for the first overall choice. Right now at 1-10, they would have the second overall choice behind Cleveland and just ahead of the Giants.

Also, consider the 49ers are very likely to get a top pick. They have two games left at home against teams with 7-4 records (Titans and Jags). The road is slightly easier with Chicago (3-8) and Houston (4-7) before ending the year in L.A. versus the powerhouse Rams (8-3).

All the facts and figures used in this piece were gathered using the analytics platform called Looker. Make sure to check them out for user friendly dashboards, visualizations, and data analysis.