Trent Baalke met with the media on Friday morning at the NFL Combine, and he provided quite a bit of content over the course of 15 minutes. He also did a smaller session with Bay Area media prior to the broader group. He discussed numerous topics, so here is some breakdown, along with some of my thoughts.
He got a couple questions about LaMichael James, and told the local media members that there were no discussions about trading him. He said, "LaMichael is a 49er, will continue to be a 49er." He was asked about LMJ by the national media, and said there were times his role was expected to be bigger in a given game, but the opposing defense would dictate changes to their approach.
People have been talking about trading LaMichael James, with numerous people suggesting Philadelphia because of the Oregon connection. I understand why people suggest trading him, but at this point I just don't see it happening. The 49ers have a cost-controlled option at kick and punt returner, and there is still time to figure out a role for him on offense. Additionally, if they did try to trade him, they would be dealing at an incredibly low value. They dealt low on A.J. Jenkins in part because they were getting absolutely nothing from him. LMJ has at least made contributions to the team.
Baalke emphasized what Jim Harbaugh said on Thursday, that the 49ers would not rush NaVorro Bowman back. He said the team had Michael Wilhoite and Nick Moody to compete, but that the team would look at options to "infuse more competition" at the position. Nothing really new to see here, although Darius Fleming would seem to be sort of out of sight, out of mind as an option.
As one would expect, Baalke was positive in his comments about Tank Carradine. He said Tank is working "awfully hard" and is in a good place. He said he's up around 290 pounds, and has had a great offseason. Take that however you want. We're at a point where we won't know anything with 100 percent certainty until he gets back on the field and is practicing. Fingers crossed it's sooner rather than later.
Vance McDonald, Quinton Patton
Baalke talked about Vance McDonald and Quinton Patton in the context of making the leap from Year 1 to Year 2. He said that was a time when players make some of their biggest improvements. I imagine it's because of having that full year of the offseason after getting a season to better understand the speed of the NFL, and how to prepare as a professional.
In talking about McDonald, he pointed out that the team was pleased with his performance because of how much they put on his plate. He played several different positions, which put him in a difficult situation from the get-go. Ideally (my opinion) we'll see him take a step forward and become more of a factor in the passing game.
As for Patton, Baalke said the injuries (finger in camp, foot during the season) took away from his growth as a rookie. However, he pointed to how resilient Patton has been, and how much he loves the game (among the top 2 or 3 on the team in that regard). Even if the 49ers do get a deal done with Anquan Boldin, I have to think Patton will have a chance to become a more regular play-maker. I wouldn't expect monster numbers, but the opportunities will be there.
49ers draft preparation
Trent Baalke did not give away too much in discussing the 49ers draft preparation, but he provided us with some insight on which we did not have a complete handle. For example, he pointed out that the 49ers have their own draft value chart. This is not entirely surprising, but given that we hear so much about the various charts out there, it has become one of the questions of choice this year. Additionally, he said that different teams are doing different things, so you can't just go strictly by the chart. And this makes sense. Each team is looking at their own trade history, and the history throughout the league for different pick trades, and adjust accordingly.
He talked about the value of the Combine, as far as confirming some things, but he said film remained the most important thing for the 49ers. He pointed to Eric Reid last season. He said Reid had the film, and the Combine did nothing to change how the team viewed him. This is not surprising, but again, nice to hear some confirmation.
Baalke also talked about the fact that arm length remains a big thing for him. He said he likes long arms, and thinks that applies to most any sport. He pointed to Aldon Smith, and how his arm length makes him so much more difficult to slow down. It's only one trait, but you can't teach length, so you might as well grab it where you can. Keep that in mind, particularly as the 49ers consider linebackers and defensive linemen.
Another piece of information that was not a surprise, but is still interesting is that the team has their PR staff checking out what is showing up in newspapers for opposing teams. Is anything slipping out from a "team source" that might give the 49ers a leg up? They have to take things with a grain of salt, but you never know what kind of hard facts some leaked information can provide. It's just one more piece of a large puzzle.
Finally, he did say the team looks at social media accounts for prospects. He clarified that the search was usually when they have already cut down the number of prospects. They're not checking every account, but rather it sounds like more of a late process search to clear out some potential problems, or serve as a tiebreaker.
The 49ers are likely going to release some audio from the press conference. I'll drop in a link if and when it comes available.