The San Francisco 49ers had a busy three days in the 2013 NFL Draft, and they have walked away with 11 players as a result. I was a bit surprised to see them end up with that many players, but the 49ers are prepared to open up some serious competition in training camp.
49ers general manager Trent Baalke met with the media Saturday evening, and he brought up an interesting point. He mentioned how it was like a heavyweight fight with the 11 picks, and he was then asked "Did you win?" In response, he said "You never know, you never know. Feel good, but you never know."
This got me thinking about how many of us are feeling walking away from this draft. Most people were incredibly excited through the first four rounds. It quieted down a bit in the final three rounds, but that was due in part to selections that were a bit more under the radar. Even factoring those in, I think most people are walking away from this draft quite excited.
We'll see draft grades in the coming days, and I imagine many of them will be fairly positive for the 49ers. In reality, we won't know for at least a year or two what to make of this close. And in reality it could be even longer. That being said, I don't think there is anything wrong with assessing the draft on paper as is. We could all be proven wildly wrong at some point, but as is, it is perfectly reasonable to be excited about what the 49ers did today. There is still a lot of work to be done. Championships are not won in April, although a strong April can very much improve those chances.
Here is a rundown of what Trent Baalke had to say Saturday evening.
You're still standing after 11 picks.
"That was a heavyweight fight there."
Did you win?
"You never know, you never know. Feel good, but you never know."
It must be tough when you have such a full roster, loaded roster, trying to figure out spots for each of those guys. Have you guys envisioned a specific spot where each of these players could conceivably fit on this roster?
"Yeah, we have. Once again, you're always trying to create competition, you're always trying to get the best players you can regardless of position. So sometimes it works like we've talked about in the positions of need, sometimes it doesn't, but certainly feel good about the group that we got."
Did you expect to make 11 picks?
"Well, I thought going in we'd make somewhere between 10 and 11 and possibly even 12 picks with the idea that we were going to move up and burn a couple and hopefully slide back and pick a couple up. We went in with 13, we came out of it with picking 11 and really came out of it with 12 because we picked up the 3rd for next year."
Were there options or did you want to pick up more than just the one for next year?
"We're always trying to pick up picks. There weren't a lot of opportunities today. The phones were pretty quiet. We explored moving up a couple of times, explored moving back, but for the most part the phones were pretty quiet today."
Can you talk about what factored in to the decision to take RB Marcus Lattimore?
"Well, we love him. Obviously, he's one heck of a football player and he's one heck of a young man. He fits everything we're looking for. When we talk about a 49er, he's the type of young man we're talking about, he's that type of guy and obviously he's got the injury to overcome. We're very confident that he can do that and very confident in our medical staff and strength and conditioning staff to get him back as close to 100 percent, if not 100 percent."
CB Chris Culliver obviously knew him from South Carolina, I don't know if he gave any input to you about what he was like or did RB Frank Gore as well?
"We always talk to our players about guys throughout the process that are on the board. We certainly don't call them on draft day and say, ‘hey what do you think about this guy,' but we're always communicating with our players, especially guys that played with him at the same university, guys at the same position that may know him and [RB] Frank [Gore] certainly loves to be an evaluator, so we always talk to Frank."
What was Frank's scouting report on him?
"You'd have to ask Frank that. Frank's obviously very high on the young man and I'm sure is looking at it with great pleasure, with the ability to come in and mentor a guy."
WR Quinton Patton, just looking at his stats, seemed to have some of his biggest games against some of the better teams, better defenses out there. Does that matter to you that he really rose to the occasion against SEC teams, etc.?
"I did a stop at Texas A&M this year and happened to watch that game while I was at Texas A&M and that's where he kind of caught my eye personally. Certainly the scouts that went through there really liked him, liked him as a competitor, liked him just as a football player and felt that from a character standpoint he was a good fit as well. Then he jumped out at us at the Senior Bowl. Went into the Senior Bowl, just as you said Matt, the lights weren't too big, they weren't too bright for him. He got off the bus ready to go, competed very hard, showed very well there, so another big stage. That always helps in the evaluation of these guys."
Quinton Patton, is he a guy that's going to stretch the field vertically for you guys? How does he fit in this passing attack?
"He's just a good, solid, all-around receiver. He's got very good receiving skills. Stretch the field, can he run deep if that's the question, he runs well enough to get behind defenders. Is he a 4.2 guy? No, but he runs well enough to get vertical and he's a very good route runner. He's a strong route runner and he's a savvy route runner."
Is he a guy that could play in the slot for you guys?
"We feel he can play all over the place for us in our system and what we ask these guys to do."
He said he thought he needed to get better as a blocker, maybe get stronger to be on the field three downs. Is that something you would agree with at this point?
"Well, I don't know about three downs for a receiver. All of these guys coming in need to get stronger. They need to get in the weight room. That goes for everybody. It's nice to hear that he's pointing that out as well, and we try to find guys that are committed to that part of the process. Guys that are willing to come in and work hard and improve themselves, especially in the offseason. Now these guys coming in don't have a long stretch before they got to get after it here, but you're always looking for those kind of guys, the ‘do-extra' type."
The vast majority of your picks come from the south, they play good college football in the south. Is there anything to it beyond that?
"I don't think so because I think I saw an article a while back that someone wrote that said we've only drafted one or two players from the Southeast Conference. Once again, we set the board regardless of school and we play the board however the board falls. If they're from the Southeast Conference great, if they're from the Mid-America great. It doesn't matter to us. A football player's a football player. They all put their pants on the same way."
What do you like about the tackle from Iowa State?
"Toughness. He's a tough guy. He's a guy that's not afraid to get dirty. He plays left tackle in a tough conference where you got to handle the edges. Just the grit, the intelligence, the work ethic, all of those things played into that."
WR Ted Ginn Jr. is gone via free agency, are any of these guys candidates to take over punt returns?
"Well, I think we've got enough options within our current roster to handle that and certainly going to give anybody that's willing to step back there and handle the duties an opportunity to do so."
Would QB B.J. Daniels be one of those guys that could do it?
"Could be, yes."
Speaking of B.J. Daniels, what stood out in the athleticism and in the tape you saw of him?
"Well, I think [head] coach [Jim Harbugh] was just in here. He probably answered all those questions for you, but just liked his athletic instincts. He's a playmaker, and he won big games on the road. He went into Florida State, into Tallahassee and won a game there. He's won big games throughout his career there. He's a fearless competitor and just has a lot of qualities that we liked, and certainly the coaching staff liked and thought would be nice, young man to work with."
Jim Harbaugh didn't touch too much on DT Quinton Dial. What do you see in him?
"Big man, a very big man. A young man that's really underdeveloped. He's a junior college guy that went to Alabama and didn't get a ton of playing time there his first year. Started to come on a little bit this year. Never been a full time starter, just a big, raw guy that we brought in here for a visit. Really fell in love with the personality and the story and think that his upside is real big."
What about CB Marcus Cooper, the last guy taken? What did you see in him?
"A tall corner that runs pretty well, plays pretty good football. And, just a guy that has the traits you're looking for at the position and hopefully you bring him in and they develop."
When you're calling undrafted guys right now, is it an easier sales pitch right now since you guys are coming off a Super Bowl to want to join this team?
"Well, it can be good and bad. The good part is, yeah, we've had some success around here. The bad part is the agents and these young guys, they want to go where they feel they've got the best chance to make the team. So, it depends on the position. If their agent's selling them on the fact that there's no room at the inn at that position, they're probably going to go somewhere else. Every now and then, we're able to bring in some guys that really want to compete at a position, but it can be difficult. But, our coaches and our scouting staff, we just finished up, up there, they worked tirelessly at getting these guys and recruiting them. Not just today, but we've been on this process for the last 20-some-odd days, calling these guys, staying in touch with them, letting them know of our interests and things. So it's a process."
Did you get in touch with British discus thrower Lawrence Okoye today, about him signing?
"Well, we had him in for a visit, so we've been on him for quite some time. As far as who we signed, we're still in the completion stage upstairs. So when I get back up there, I'll know better of who's committed and who hasn't committed. But until they sign, they can go anywhere they want."
Do you have 19 spots available?
"I would have to check."
Do you have to stay under 90 at this point?
"You don't have to stay until, you could sign as many as you'd like. You have to be at 90, you can't have more than 90 under contract at one time, so no one's signed anything. The rookie pool hasn't signed yet, so you could conceivably be over right now before they sign contracts. You can only have 90 under contract."
There was still talk about veterans. Is the roster set now?
"It's never set. The roster, we went through this, the roster's never set. The roster today could change tomorrow. The roster a month from now could change the very next day. We're always looking at ways to improve the roster. Whether that's through college free agency now, which we're going in, guys that are on the street, unrestricted free agents that are out there, street free agents, we're always churning. We're always looking for ways to improve the roster."
Your division rivals all added very fast slot receives this offseason, Arizona Cardinals WR Ryan Swope, St. Louis Rams WR Tavon Austin and Seattle Seahawks WR Percy Harvin. I take it you're confident in CB Carlos Rogers' ability to run with those guys?
"We're confident in the players that we have in our locker room."
Do you kind of have to keep up with the Jones though. When you see a team is adding those players, do you then make a counter move at any point?
"Once again, I think it's all how you look at this. We feel like the players that we added to this roster are going to improve the depth on this roster. They're going to improve the competition on this roster, and with no assurances to anyone. Everyone has to earn their job. This is a new year. So, everyone that was on the roster prior to the last three days, and all the ones coming in, they're going to have to earn their spot. There's no givens."
Who do you see competing for that slot cornerback role besides Carlos Rogers? CB Perrish Cox? Would CB Nnamdi Asomugha as well?
"Well, I think that, once again, the coaches can talk more about the scheme and everything else. But, there are other guys, [CB Chris] Cully's [Culliver] certainly capable of moving inside. [CB] Perrish [Cox] has played inside. [CB] Nnamdi's [Asomugha] played inside before. You always talk about matchups, are we manning up these guys, or are we playing zone and covering them in an umbrella type of situation. So, I think we've got to look at it a lot of different ways. And you take care of certain things with scheme more than just one-on-one matchups."
Do you feel you have cornerbacks who can match up one on one with those receivers? I was just clarifying.
"No, that's not what I said. Do I feel that way? I feel our guys are very capable of playing football with the guys that are in this division, or across the National Football League. That's what I do believe, 100 percent believe that. But, what I said was it takes scheme sometimes to take care of different schemes that other people are throwing at you. No different than it does when they're playing against us and our personnel. This is a matchup league. It's a personnel matchup league. And you either do it with personnel, or you do it with scheme. Those are the two ways you take care of it."