2014 NFL Draft: Trent Baalke talks about the 49ers Day 2 work

Check out that poker face - Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

49ers general manager Trent Baalke met with the media Friday evening following the conclusion of the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. We break down some of his comments, and provide a full transcript. You can watch the entire video HERE.

The San Francisco 49ers had themselves a very busy day on Friday, as they made five different trades, while adding four draft picks and wide receiver Stevie Johnson. The round wrapped up around 8:30 p.m. PT, and afterward, general manager Trent Baalke had a chance to break down what the 49ers did, and what they might do heading into Day 3. I've posted the entire transcript down below, but here are a few highlights.

Baalke said Carlos Hyde was the highest graded player on their board at that point. Of course, the decision to move up from 63 to 57 (after dealing down from 56, but still having 61 in their back pocket) indicates this was more than just a best player available pick. They could have waited to see who slipped down to 61, but they figured Hyde is more than just a random best player available. Barring anything drastic, Frank Gore will be on the roster Week 1. This get a little more interesting as the season wears on, and we move in to 2015 and Gore is potentially gone.

Baalke was asked about the cornerback position. He said the way the cornerbacks have fallen it has shown this is not the deepest of classes. We saw five cornerbacks go in the first, then two in the second and two in the third. Baalke inferred there could very well be a run on Saturday, but he did not seem overly enthused about the position. At the same time, Baalke had a bit of a poker face going throughout the press conference, so the 49ers very well could jump in at cornerback. As is always the case, he did not give away much of anything.

Here's the full transcript.

First things first, the addition of WR Stevie Johnson, how did that come together?

“Well, they had reached out to us yesterday when they had made the pick for [Buffalo Bills WR] Sammy [Watkins] and floated a couple of options at us. And we took a hard look at it, and it made sense. He’s a good football player. And you can never have enough good football players. We’re glad to have him.”

When you get a guy like that, does that change how you view the draft as far as the priority you place on having a wide receiver?

“Well, I think it certainly makes you think and it’s part of the equation. But, you’re still looking for good football players at every position. We’ve said that since we’ve been here, [head coach] Jim [Harbaugh] and I, competition is good. And the more competition you can create, the better it is for everybody.”

He was used primarily in the slot last season with Buffalo. How do you see him fit in with this offense? What do you want to see from him?

“Well, that’s for the coaches to decide in terms of how we’re going to utilize him. They feel confident, as you see with all of our guys, they move around. And, he’s a guy that has lined up in the slot quite a bit in his career. But, he’s also lined up outside and performed at a high level. So, three of the last four years he’s been a 1,000-yard receiver in the National Football League, which isn’t easy to do.”

Your first pick today, power back, can you explain why you decided to go with him?

“Best player available. The highest graded player on our board. And just felt that it was too good a value to pass up.”

Is it a comment at all on RB Marcus Lattimore and his recovery?

“Absolutely not. Once again, it’s competition. And the great thing, these guys aren’t afraid to compete. So, yeah it’s crowded. But, at the same time, it’s going to make every one of them step up and play to their capability. And that’s what you’re looking for.”

RB Frank Gore runs with power, but he’s not the size of RB Carlos Hyde. Do you see
power back as something you were looking for, you were looking to kind of pick up
tonight?

“Well, there’s a definite need—he’s more than just a power back. You can see he’s not a homerun hitter every time he touches the ball, but he’s capable, just as Frank has been capable over his career, to break some long runs. And he runs our style of offense very well. He’s got great vision. He’s got great feet. He runs with his pads low. And he can make the offensive line better. And that’s what you’re looking for in running backs, can they make the offensive line
better, and make their job easier. And he’s got a knack for doing that, as do all of our backs. So, it’s going to create great competition.”

Is C Marcus Martin in those three interior offensive line positions, or is he more of a
center?

"Center/guard. He can play center/guard. He’ll start out in our system, he’ll start out competing for that center job."

You made four trades in the draft. Just what was the process, for value? To pick up extra picks? Was there a philosophy to all these moves that you made? 

“Well, it’s all relative to the board and the value. When the phone rings, you answer it, you listen, and you see if it makes sense. And there are other times you prompt the call and step out and see what other teams are willing to do. So, there was a lot of that, and I think you saw it across the league today, across the draft. There was a lot of movement.”

What is the line? You guys have a very strong roster, why not make more picks earlier than trading back and stockpiling picks for the third day?

“Well, once again, it’s all relative to your board and how it looks and where you think guys can step in and play and compete for spots. So, we felt real good about the additions today, real good about the moves that we made. We’ve got a lot of picks tomorrow. And there’s a lot of guys left on that board that can compete for various roles on our football team.”

If I remember correctly, you had 56, you trade back to 63 and then up to 57 for Hyde. Is that because you wanted Hyde no matter what at that spot?

“Well, there’s value. I think if you look at the two trades we made, you’ll be able to put together the difference in the value, and that’s why we did it. We didn’t anticipate the second move, but as soon as we got done with the first move, it just kind of fell into place.”

Does the devaluing of running backs throughout the league, the first one wasn’t taken until 52 or 53 for the first time in league history, work in your favor when you have an offense that relies more on power running?

“Well, I can’t speak for the rest of the league. We just felt at that pick, it was great value. We like the player. We like him a lot and we see him as a strong fit into our system and the type of back that can come in here and give us great competition at that position.”

You’ve talked for years about having a three-headed monster, not having just one guy like Frank has been for so long. Do you start now to see that actually taking place?

“Well, there’s only one football and it’s up to the coaches to figure out how to put all of the pieces together and they’ll do an excellent job of doing that. But, we’ve talked about that three- headed deal. I think when you hear coach talking, you hear myself talk, the bottom line is winning football games and doing what it takes to win football games. If there’s a game where the three-back approach is going to benefit us, I’m sure that’s what we’re going to do. And when there’s a game when it’s one guy carrying the load, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do what it takes to win football games.”

It seems, at least on paper, that cornerback is big need of this team. Is that a position you would like to address in tomorrow’s draft?

“Well, it depends how the board falls and I think you’ve seen, and I don’t know the exact numbers at the moment, but there hasn’t been a whole lot of corners taken outside of that first rush in the first round. I think there’s been, what is it, two, maybe three, that have been taken since. So, the depth at that position within the draft in the early part of the draft just wasn’t where it has been in past years. That doesn’t mean tomorrow that you’re not going to see corners flying off the board. Are we going to get involved with that? If the right player’s there at the right time, we absolutely will.”

The 49ers passed out a six-page bio of LB Chris Borland. It was pretty extensive. How involved were you in scouting Chris?

“Well, it’s Wisconsin. I’m from Wisconsin. How can you not love him as a football player? Not tall enough, not fast enough, arms are too short, you hear all of that. We just love the makeup. We love the player. He’s everything you’re looking for from a DNA standpoint. He loves the game. He’s a smart football player. He’s an extremely instinctive football player. He’s overcome that lack of arm length. He’s overcome that lack of speed that is being talked about. He’s just a baller and he’s going to get thrown into the mix and then it’s up to him from there. But, we expect him to come in and compete.”

Your head coach does not like to make comparisons, but do you see any former Dolphins LB Zach Thomas in him? Just the way Thomas used to play, the way he plays?

“Coach doesn’t like to make them for the same reason I don’t like to make them. They’re all different. Is he in that mold? You could say that because they said the same thing about Zach, they said the same thing about [former LB] Dat Ngyuen. They said the same thing about other guys. Can he overcome that? He’s about to find out, as are we. We felt real good about him and the value was right for us.”

Back to Hyde for a second, how much experience did he have in pass protection at Ohio State?

“Enough. Enough to get a feel for it. They run a different offense than we run, but some of the similar plays that he’s going to be asked to run here. He’s a downhill, he’s square, he’s a guy that can shift holes, make people miss early, make people miss at the second level. So, I think he’s an all-around back. He’s got good hands. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. And certainly with his stature, strength and toughness, he’s going to hold up well in pass protection as well.”

He said during the vetting process, you guys did ask him about the suspension at the start of the year. Did he clear out all those concerns with you or where does that stand?

“We’ve cleared all concerns with Carlos, as we have with all of the other guys that we selected today. Feel real good about the group as a whole, not only as football players, but young men. Feel they’re going to come in here and represent this team and this community very well.”

Is this a case of with Frank entering the final year of his deal, you’re trying to kind of set things up post-Frank?

“I don’t know. I mean, I think you can look at it that way in some respects, but the bottom line is and I’ve said it, it was the best player available. We’ve said that for four straight years now. It was the best player on our board at the time we picked and clearly the best player, so we made the pick.”

Even just in conversation, how much do you say, ‘Stevie Johnson, he’s a guy who can get open against Seattle defensive backs,’ or ‘Carlos Hyde’s a guy who can run the ball power against that defensive front’ or any of the other guys, specifically looking at the matchups with Seattle?

“You’ve got to matchup with everybody. You can’t just worry about what Seattle’s doing. You’ve
got to matchup with everybody in the National Football League. Do we look at matchups?
Absolutely we do. But, we also look at fits and system. We know what we want to do offensively.
We know what we want to do defensively. You’ve got to find players that can do those things,
because that’s how we win football games. And these are all guys that fit into our mentality.
They fit into what we’re looking for not only out on the football field, but in the locker room as
well.”

At the NFL Scouting Combine, you said that in all sports you want to build up the middle of your team. Is that something you feel you accomplished through the first five picks or something you set out to accomplish?

“Well, I think you look at it from that standpoint, offensively with the addition of Marcus at center, [G] Brandon [Thomas] at the guard position, guard/tackle position. Those are big guys, big physical football players. Then you look at Carlos, another big guy. You look at the first-day pick in [DB] Jimmie [Ward]. You guys met him today. Not a big guy. A big heart. Plays big. So, big wins, big wins a lot of football games in the league and big in the middle, physical in the middle wins a lot of football games. So, yeah we felt we did that.”

What is the plan for Brandon Thomas?

“Get him healthy. It was an unfortunate thing. He’s a great young man. Just tore his ACL. It was unfortunate in a private workout. We really had him valued high. He was the highest player on our board once again when we made our pick. It was just, the value was too high to pass up. He’s a guy that’s going to come in here, rehab, most likely redshirt just like [RB] Marcus [Lattimore] did a year ago and we’ll see where he’s at after he goes through all of the rehab. But, we expect him to rehab fine.”

The surgery’s been done then?

“The surgery’s been done. I think he’s, I may be a little off, but I think he’s like 15 or 16 days post-surgery right now.”

With seven picks tomorrow, do you need seven guys to make this team? 

“If they’re the right seven. Who knows where they come from, right? We’ve seen all too often. [FB] Bruce Miller was a seventh round pick. There’s value to be found and the more darts you have the more balloons you can pop. And there’s some value in that.”

Are there any cornerbacks left in the draft who have the ability to compete with CB Chris Culliver right away as a starter?

“That’s hard to say. You bring guys in here to compete and you never know. We don’t ever put a ceiling on a guy, whether it’s a guy coming in as a free agent or a guy coming in from the draft. We don’t say, ‘this is the ceiling for this young man.’ The ceiling’s wherever they want to take it and it’s up to them once they get here. So, are there guys left on the board that can come in and compete with those guys? I think there are. But, who are they?”

Is there any concern about Culliver having a starting spot considering the injury he’s coming back from?

“No. A lot of players have come back from ACLs. It was a clean ACL. There was no surface damage to the bones. He was fine. So, it’s a clean ACL. Rehab’s gone extremely well. We feel really good about where he’s at.”

A couple months ago, Jim Harbaugh said that he’d like to add a downfield receiver to the offense, somebody to stretch defenses. Do you guys have that on the roster now and is that something that maybe you’re going to be looking for in these last seven picks?

“We feel we have guys that can get down the field. There’s two ways to stretch a field. You can stretch it vertically or you can stretch it horizontally. You do what your talents allow you to do. Do we feel we can go out and win football games? I think that’s the better question. We do believe we can go out and win football games with the guys that we have in that locker room and have won a lot of football games with those guys.”

Where do you guys stand in terms of punt returners, the punt returner situation?

“First of all, [RB] LaMichael [James] did an excellent job for us a year ago and it’s his job along with the running back position. So, we don’t feel an urgency to go out and replace LaMichael at all. I’m very, very excited about what he brings. First year as a punt returner averaging over 10 yards a return. Competed at a blue-level as a punt returner for us and would expect him only to get better in his second year doing it.”

What does a blue-level mean?

“A good level, high level.”

Blue-chip?

“A blue-chip level.”

Like 10 percent of the league?

“The upper 10-15 percent of the league.”

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