So, here we are, closing in on the draft. Over the past 5 drafts, the Baalke era, there are a few things that are certainties. Baalke is very adept at gathering up draft picks. He is very adept at trading up and down to gather these picks. He has built through compensatory picks, through trades, and trades to future drafts in his efforts to garner as many picks. And he isn’t averse to taking chances on injured players.
The last strategy is up for debate, however. We all know the 49ers got Frank Gore in the 3rd round, after his multiple knee injuries in college, and he had a steller career. That wasn’t Baalke, and he didn’t sit a year, as the guys that Baalke has tried this on, have done. The ones that have been drafted this way are Tank Carradine, Marcus Lattimore, and Brandon Thomas. Lattimore, as we all know, retired after trying for nearly 2 years of trying to get into football shape. Wort the risk? Well, since the Niners had 11 picks that draft, sure. He was their 6th pick in that 2013 draft, and he was a beast before the injury.
Carradine is a mixed bag as well. He was a guaranteed high 1st round pick before his injury. After sitting the first 2 months of the 2013 season he was activated. However he never got on the field. In 2014, he played sparingly until RayMac was cut, and the injuries mounted. He admitted to not knowing the playbook well enough to get himself out there, but by the end of the season, he at least looked decent out there. So, he appears to be getting it at this point. The jury is still out on him.
Brandon Thomas is the latest injured guy Baalke picked. He was nominally drafted to take the place of Mike Iupati. Something Baalke felt would probably happen, and it did. The word on Thomas was of course that he was a guaranteed 1st rounder as well before his knee injury in pre-camp drills last year. He, along with NaVorro Bowman, appear to be fully healed from their injuries. This would be a Godsend as Thomas so far looks like he’s fully capable of picking up where he left off. And that is as a top-flight guard who is much more that one one-dimensional mauler that Iupati was. Thomas is much more nimble and quick on his feet than Iupati, and is a much better pass protector than Iupati could ever dream to be. If we are to get more diverse in our play calling and offensive flow, having mobile guards would certainly help a lot.
This year? I’ve said in the past that I don’t think Baalke flies around the board this year in a flurry of trades and pick-gathering, but there’s already been talk of SF trading up to get Alabama WR Amari Cooper. I think that’s a somke screen at this point, but if the past has taught us anything, anything is possible concerning Trent Baalke. His track record is very solid. That being said, I dont think he has the luxury of going after another red-shirt draft pick. I think he’s drafting from a need of gaining instant depth. D line, and defensive backfield dpeth are the biggest concerns that I see. O line depth behind that. Then go after a late-round WRs, RB, and TE. Maybe even a flier at QB. . . .