As so many of you, I've been having endless go's at the fanspeak mock draft and spent hours thinking about our draft strategy.
Here are a couple of general thoughts/ideas concerning the 49ers and the upcoming draft.
1) After free agency, I think most of us agree that our most pressing needs are cornerback and wide receiver. I think cornerback is our primary need, because we do not at all have a proven starter at nickel cb - which with the prevalence of 3 WR-sets is basically a starting position - and our overall quality depth at cb is questionable at best. Also, Cully is coming off a serious injury, so you can't be 100% sure he'll be able to step in and replace T. Brown. Basically, we need to draft 2 cbs (or even 3, if we take a guy like Colvin and stash him on IR), and we need to use a high pick on a cb who can play the nickel.
The need at WR is not as pressing, because we have Boldin and Crabtree as starters, Patton as a promising third option, and we don't use a lot of 3 WR sets. However, we could definately use a real deep threat to keep the defenses honest - I think that actually could be the final piece to the puzzle that unleashes the enormous potential that our offense has. Also, of course, Crabtree will be a free agent after next year and Boldin isn't getting any younger, so getting somebody who has potential as a future number one receiver seems pretty important.
2) As many people have noted, we're in luck because WR and CB are pretty deep positions in this year's draft (WR especially).
3) As many people have also noted, we have a large number of draft picks and not that many roster spots available. So that makes trading up an attractive option. The other potential option is to trade picks for future picks, but I don't think Baalke will do that extensively unless he gets an offer that's really attractive, like getting a future first for one of our (low) seconds. After all, we have a huge opportunity to win now.
4) So how to we trade up?
One option would be to trade up from number 31, using one of our second round picks. That would get us to around pick number 17 or 18 (according to the draft value chart), or using our high 3rd-rounder, which would get us to somewhere around pick 21.
Another option would be to stay at number 31 and get a second first rounder (say, number 28) by packaging both our second round picks. Considering that we have two really serious needs, that would seem in my eyes to be the best strategy. You could get one of the second tier of top cbs - Roby, Fuller or Verrett (who would fit perfectly as slot corner despite his size limitations) - and also get one of the top speedy WRs - Brandin Cooks, Marquise Lee or Odell Beckham - who slips to the bottom of the first round (and I'm pretty sure one will, because there are so many attractive options).
To trade up into (or close to) the top ten using multiple picks is not a good idea in my opinion considering the wealth of good players in this year's draft and the fact that keeping a steady flow of draft picks replacing established players at multiple positions is so vital for salary cap purposes. The only player who in my eyes might be worth trading up for would be Sammy Watkins (because he fills a position of need and is clearly better than the other WRs), but that's only feasible if he slips to the bottom of the top ten (he won't). Such a trade would also preclude getting a top CB-prospect.
5) All our other needs are just for depth or can be seen as "luxury picks" for the future. We should take: a SS as a potential replacement for Bethea and for depth, a QB for Harbaugh to develop (Logan Thomas seems an ideal candidate), a C as insurance in case Kilgore doesn't pan out, an ILB for depth purposes, a TE to challenge G. Celek for the number 3 job, a D-Lineman, an OLB or a RB if somebody awesome falls through the cracks and maybe another WR.