Lucky sevens?

If Cody Pickett wins the job as the 49ers' No. 3 quarterback this summer – and that's a distinct possibility, considering the way things are developing in training camp – then the team would enter the 2004 season with three seventh-round draft picks as the three QBs on its roster. While that might not exactly rattle the meter of Amazing But True Football Facts, it does merit some inspection, and makes you wonder if the 49ers really are getting lucky or not with these guys at this vital position.

Of course, the real answer to that soon will be forthcoming this season and in the near future as Tim Rattay (No. 212 overall selection in 2000), Ken Dorsey (No. 241 overall in 2003) and – in all likelihood – Pickett (No. 217 this year) let the Niners know if they got a bunch of seventh-round steals in the draft and, much more significantly, whether the team is going in the right direction at the game's most consequential position.

The Niners got pretty lucky drafting Joe Montana in the third round in 1979 – he could have been taken higher by somebody else, including the Niners – and Steve Young was the first overall pick in the 1984 NFL supplemental draft by Tampa Bay before joining the Niners. Montana went on to the Hall of Fame, Young is on his way there, and both were multiple NFL MVP winners with the Niners.

The Niners also lucked out big-time with Jeff Garcia, who wasn't even drafted and had to spend five seasons in the CFL before he even got a shot in the NFL when the Niners signed him to a free-agent deal in 1999. He went on to become a three-time Pro Bowler with the Niners, but now that he is out as the team's starter, San Francisco is entering a new era at quarterback with three QBs who were relative afterthoughts in the draft.

Coach Dennis Erickson doesn't have a problem with that. There are success stories all around the NFL with quarterbacks taken in the later rounds – or those who weren't taken at all and made their names as free agents. One of those late-rounders just won his second Super Bowl ring in the past three years.

"Well, there have been a lot of guys over the years like Tom Brady," Erickson said, referring to the New England quarterback who was selected in the sixth round in 2000. "He's a prime example right now. You have to judge guys and see.

"We felt when we had Jeff here (last year) that we didn't need a quarterback and Tim was here. So, when we got to the seventh round, we liked Ken a lot. So, we decided to take him in the seventh round. He was sitting there. That is the same thing with Cody Pickett. I had seen Cody Pickett play in college and I know he didn't have a great year last year, but I had to play against him and I know what kind of arm he's got. So, he was sitting there, too."

But, Erickson added, "I think guys that pick first, if there is a great guy out there, they take him. You do it that way or a guy is a free agent and you go get him if you don't feel you are good at that position."

The Niners were looking for a quarterback in the 2000 draft, but Rattay wasn't even the first they selected. The team took Hofstra's Gio Carmazzi in the third round, and he was expected to be the heir apparent at the position as the Niners began rebuilding from the ground up after a significant roster purge. But Carmazzi bombed out due to shoulder problems, and Rattay was given time to develop as Garcia unexpectedly became a star.

Even though the Niners appeared set with Garcia and Rattay in 2003, they opted not to pass on Dorsey after he fell to the last round. The same happened this year with Pickett, who might have been a first-round pick the year before if he'd entered the draft after his record-setting junior season.

Rattay, Pickett and Dorsey saw their stock plummet before the draft when all had poor pro workouts or poor performances during college all-star games and/or the practice weeks leading up to those games.

Still, Dorsey was extremely disappointed to fall to the seventh round after going 38-2 as a starter at Miami, where he won one national championship and came within a few plays of winning another. Pickett said it was a "total shock" when he fell to the seventh round. Rattay, after three record-setting seasons at Louisiana Tech that established him as one of the nation's top QBs that year, also was disillusioned after lasting until the final round.

But he said it made him work harder, and gave him something to prove. Dorsey and Pickett have said the same sort of things and, like Rattay, said landing in San Francisco made it worthwhile to last that long in the draft.

Rattay explained: "It was very frustrating," he said. "I was disappointed going in the seventh round, but I'm really glad I ended up here. That was a blessing in disguise. (Coaches) really pound us and grind us (to play quarterback here), which really gets you going (at the position). As a first-timer in that (draft) deal, you're not sure how that thing works. People rate you high, but you don't know. I think it just makes you work harder because it puts that little chip on your shoulder, I guess, in that you want to prove people wrong and stuff."

Now the Niners are looking for their seventh-round "projects" to prove the team right, and the future of the franchise might be depending on it.


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