Nobody can ever say that Baalke doesn't have a very different way of evaluating a draft and putting together a roster. Having spent a great deal of time (WAY too much time) preparing for a draft that I'm purely just a fan of (and by no means an expert in), I think I have some idea of what he has done thus far in the draft. And, to be honest, I'm very very impressed. Here's my take.
Jimmy Ward DB Northern Illinois – flexible, tough, fast…he will start as nickel corner and be trained to replace Bethea in 2016, would be my estimation
Carlos Hyde RB Ohio St. – knew we were going to take a RB. The obvious reason is because Gore is aging and Lattimore is a question mark. But the real reason this a great pick is because of the new age in the NFL of running back by committee…this will work well long term with Lattimore/Hyde/Hunter…three very different RBs.
Marcus Martin OL USC – this is an absolute steal…long arms, strong. He can play any and all IOL positions. Between him and Jonathan Martin, and our starting five, our OL is set. Look for Baalke to trade some one or more than one OL during the pre-season to garner some late round draft ammo next year.
Chris Borland ILB Iowa – He is a pure need pick. If Bowman isn’t missing half the season, we don’t take an ILB. But we had to do it. And we had to pick someone with, at least, a chance to contribute. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Borland making this team…even over Moody….though Moody’s athleticism gives him a serious advantage on STs. If Bowman weren’t injured, I could have seen us taking someone like Kareem Martin with this pick. But we do what we need to do and we hopefully did it well.
Brandon Thomas OG/OT Clemson – It is becoming the M.O. of Baalke to load up on players we can hide on NFI for later use. Thomas is a top 40 pick who dropped because of a knee injury. When healthy, Thomas man-handled Clowney one on one. Thomas is insanely strong. When you can pump 225 lbs 35x that’s one thing. But when you can do it with nearly 35" arms…that’s incredible. Have a good season Iupati, you’ll be auditioning for Free Agency.
And, let’s not forget two other reasons this draft is far better than anything we could have expected.
1. trading a conditional fourth rounder next year for Stevie Johnson from Buffalo. Johnson was a 3x 1000 yard receiver in a crappy Buffalo offense. Teaming him up with Crabtree, Boldin, Patton, Lloyd and probably one other WR we will likely take on Day 3, will give us a very very good Offense.
It should be noted that Baalke gave up a fourth rounder for Johnson. He later traded down from pick 56…acquiring a 2015 4th rounder while giving up another 7th rounder and gaining a 5th rounder. And then turned around traded that 5th and the 63rd pick gained to move back up to 57. So for a net late 7th round pick, we got a 2015 4th round pick. Only Baalke. You can HONESTLY say, now, that Baalke essentially got Johnson for what ended up being merely a 7th round pick. Name me one other GM who can get Anquan Boldin and Stevie Johnson in consecutive drafts for a 6th round and 7th round pick?
2. This year’s draft is also aided by the reality that four draft picks from last year, who either missed the entire year or most of the year, will be joining us this season….Tank Carradine, Marcus Lattimore, Luke Marquardt, and Nick Moody.
So we have the following players joining the NFC Title Game Team:
a. Jimmy Ward – Nickle CB/Safety
b. Carlos Hyde – Big Bruising RedZone RB
c. Marcus Martin – Best C in the draft…plus RG/LG
d. Chris Borland – Depth at ILB (Bowman)
e. Brandon Thomas – Replaces Iupati next year
f. Stevie Johnson – Great WR
g. Tank Carradine – DE/Pass Rusher
h. Marcus Lattimore – Gore’s Heir
i. Luke Marquardt – Swing Tackle
j. Nick Moody – ST Super Star.
k. And Let’s Not Forget: we get Chris Culliver back from a season long injury.
And we STILL have seven picks tomorrow.
So what happens tomorrow. Well, let's look at the roster a bit. Forgive me if I don't list every player we currently have in each position. I'm sure you understand why...I'm lazy.
Quarterback: CK, Gabbert, MBT
Running Back: Gore, Lattimore, Hunter, LMJ, Hyde, Miller, (Tukuafu)
Wide Receiver: Crabtree, Boldin, Lloyd, Johnson, Patton, Baldwin, Osgood
Tight End: Davis, McDonald, Celek, Carrier
Linemen: Davis, Staley, J. Martin, Iupati, Looney, Kilgore, Boone, Marquardt, Bykowski, Thomas, Snyder
DT/NT: I. Williams, Dorsey, Dial, Tukuafu
DE/DT: Carradine, J. Smith, McDonald, Okoye
OLB/DE: Aldon, Brooks, Lemonier, Skuta, Dobbs, Fleming, Moody
ILB: Willis, Bowman, Wilhoite, Borland, (Moody)
CB: Brock, Culliver, Ward, Cox, Wright, Morris, Cook
Safety: Reid, Bethea, Spilman, Dahl, Ventrone, (Ward)
Long Snapper: McDermett
What Do We Still Need
What we still need in the draft is, obviously, up for debate. I know many are screaming to get a big, tall CB (a la DICK Sherman). Others want a big time WR. But it seems to me that there are no real needs left on the team, except the need to add competition on certain layers. And, to perhaps draft with the intent of filling holes that will develop in 2015 and beyond.
Predictions for Day Three:
1. We'll take a Quarterback. We can use some competition at 3rd string with the hopes of developing a better 2nd string. I can see potentials here of:
- A.J. McCarron Alabama - a proven winner
- Zach Mettenberger LSU - strong arm, big, but VERY slow
- David Fales SJSU - Harbaugh has some interest in him. He is one of the most accurate QBs in the draft
- Logan Thomas VT - Do we REALLY want to take a chance putting a FB in his hands and asking him to throw
- Jeff Mathews Cornell - Super smart, great athlete, lots of potential
2. Do we really need or want another Wide Receiver? The only thing we are really lacking at WR is someone who can lift the lid off the defense.
- Martavis Bryant Clemson - One of my long time favorites this off season. VERY raw. VERY fast. VERY tall. VERY inexperienced. I can see us taking him and using him ONLY as a deep threat in certain situations while teaching him how to actually be a Wide Receiver. He could even be left off game day rosters several weeks. If we take him, I can see us letting Baldwin go
- Jeff Janis Saginaw Valley - More refined that Bryant. But not nearly the upside. Still very fast and great route runner.
- L'Damian Washington Missouri - He is like a poor man's Bryant. Needs to learn a lot. He might be material for a late round pick and stuffing him on the PS
3. Do we take another Cornerback? I don't know. I believe that there are still some CBs on the board who could compete for a spot on this roster over Cox or Morris. But what are their upsides.
- Bashaud Breeland Clemson - fairly long (5'11"+) but pretty slow.
- Jaylen Watkins Florida - more of a slot corner...very faster..decent defender one on one
- Keith McGill Utah - loooong (6'3") and strong...may already be at his ceiling at nearly age 25
- Marcus Roberson Florida - fairly tall at 6', but also slow with weak hip turns
- Pierre Desir Lindenwood - another long lean CB...lots of upside
- Walt Aikins Liberty - fairly long and very fast...a project though..could look good on the PS for a year or so.
- Aaron Colvin Oklahoma - top 75 talent or better. Injured in the all-stars....would be a good NFI candidate and fit in nicely next season after Cox and Wright move on.
4. Defensive Line 2 (DT/DE) - This is a big need, I think. We have only three real talents here. Cowboy is getting old and McDonald is pushing the limit as to whether he worth what he'll be making. I think we have a real need future need here.
- Ed Stinson Alabama - Great talent, but takes too many plays off. Has fairly long arms, which Baalke likes.
- Brent Urban Virginia - Very tall, long arms...a project though.
- Taylor Hart Oregon - A known west coast quantity...has the size and speed combo...but sub 33" arms
- Josh Mauro Stanford - Another known quantity...super talented...not the greatest athlete, but has the size
- Ben Gardner Stanford - Another NFI candidate...probably better than Mauro on that Stanford team.
5. Pass Rusher (OLB/DE) - with Brooks' contract becoming burdensome and Aldon simply a burden by himself, we could use someone to join Lemonier and Skuta on the outside.
- Carl Bradford Arizona - I hope not...short, slow and short arms...NOTHING Baalke likes
- Jackson Jeffcoat Texas - Has the bloodline, the size and speed....not as tall as his dad, but has the brains.
- Chris Smith Arkansas - Short, but has long arms. I think I prefer someone taller as a edge rusher.
- Trevor Reilly Utah - Has the height but short arms
- James Gayle Virginia - doesn't have the arm length and is medium in height...but seems to know how to get to QBs
- Larry Webster Bloomsberg - has good height, speed and arm length and seems to know how to get to the QB...raw, could be a sixth rounder and onto the PS
Other players who could have a chance of competing for roster space of one kind or another.
- Bruce Ellington WR South Carolina - short, stocking, fast...not great hands, but if we want someone who can work the underneath routes, a good choice
- Robert Herron WR Wyoming - See Ellington above, except Herron is a bit smaller, more jitterbug like and better hands...could do some return work
- Colt Lyerla TE Oregon - Lots of off-field issues, but was rated a first round prospect at the end of last year's draft. Might be worth a flyer.
- Blake Annen TE Cincinnati - Lots of nice things about this kid...could be a nice PS player and develop into a very good NFL TE.