The San Francisco 49ers are through the 2015 NFL Draft and undrafted free agency with 18 additions to the team. The draft picks and reported UDFA signings include 1 quarterback, 1 running back, 2 tight ends, 6 wide receivers, 3 offensive linemen, 1 defensive lineman, 2 outside linebackers, 1 safety and 1 punter. Here is a list of the players added thus far:
1 (17). Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon
2 (14). Jaquiski Tartt, S, Samford
3 (15). Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia
4 (18). Blake Bell, TE, Oklahoma
4 (27). Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina
4 (33). DeAndre Smelter, WR, Georgia Tech
5 (29). Bradley Pinion, P, Clemson
6 (14). Ian Silberman, OL, Boston College
7 (27). Trenton Brown, OL, Florida
7 (37). Rory Anderson, TE, South Carolina
Dylan Thompson, QB, South Carolina
Marcus Rush, OLB, Michigan State
Dres Anderson, WR, Utah
Patrick Miller, OL, Auburn
Issac Blakeney, WR, Duke
Darius Davis, WR, Henderson State
DiAndre Campbell, WR, Washington
DeAndrew White, WR, Alabama
The 2015 NFL Draft is certainly about the players a team adds, but it also helps give us some insight based on who the team does not add. We head into the draft making various assumptions about team needs. Many of us thought the 49ers needed help at positions including cornerback, wide receiver and inside linebacker, among many others. And yet, as we look back, the team did not address some of the needs we expected, or did so in a somewhat limited fashion.
We ran a poll a couple days before the draft, and the top needs according to readers included in order, wide receiver, cornerback, inside linebacker, defensive line, offensive guard, offensive tackle and tight end. The team added a defensive lineman in the first round, and then two offensive linemen and two tight ends. So what about the top three positions on our needs list?
The team drafted DeAndre Smelter, who is coming off a torn ACL last fall. He is expected to start training camp on the NFI list, but his status beyond that for 2015 will depend on what the medical staff decides. The team also signed five wide receivers as UDFAs, but the odds of any of those guys hitting is slim.
Smelter could make his return later this year, but whatever happens, the front office seems fairly comfortable with Anquan Bolding and Torrey Smith leading the way. And it is entirely possible we will look back on this as a vote of confidence for Quinton Patton and/or Bruce Ellington. The front office might view one or both of them as legitimate breakout candidates in 2015.
Smelter is a bit of a lottery ticket given the ACL injury, but he could be a strong option long-term. For the short term though, the team seems fairly comfortable with the wide receivers.
The most notable of course was in the secondary. The 49ers drafted a safety, but did not draft a single rookie cornerback, or even sign one as an undrafted free agent. GM Trent Baalke said the team tried to address it multiple times in the draft, but the board did not fall the way they wanted. He also said he was happy with the group they have. While he does not make huge moves up in the top end of the first round, Baalke does make moves up if the situation is right. If they reeeeeally wanted a cornerback, he had the pieces to make a move.
Instead, the team heads into 2015 with quite a few cornerbacks, but questions in the minds of fans. The group includes Tramaine Brock, Shareece Wright, Dontae Johnson, Chris Cook, Keith Reaser, Kenneth Acker, Leon McFadden and Marcus Cromartie. Fans are not sure how it will shake out, but it would seem Trent Baalke is fairly satisfied with the group.
Prior to the draft I said I did not think they would go cornerback in the first round, but I did think they would add at least one. So much for that.
The 49ers signed Phillip Wheeler the afternoon of the first day of the draft. Wheeler has shown some things in the past, but was released by the Miami Dolphins this offseason. He will likely come in and compete with Michael Wilhoite to start opposite NaVorro Bowman. The team could still add a guy like Lance Briggs, but even if they don't, it would seem like they are legitimately comfortable with their inside linebackers.
The group lost Patrick Willis and Chris Borland, but this would seem to be a vote of confidence in potential replacements. After Wilhoite and Wheeler, the group has Nick Moody, Shayne Skov, Desmond Bishop and Nick Bellore. It would appear the 49ers can live with that group.
One other note on the ILB position. This would seem to indicate everything continues on a smooth path with Bowman's recovery. He returned to practice last week at the team's voluntary minicamp. He talked about having some aches that come with the return, but it seems like he is progressing as needed. And not drafting an inside linebacker should add a little bit of optimism.
"Best player available"
This draft seemed to further indicate Trent Baalke and company will look more at the best players on their own board than specifically address what others view as the most important needs. People will call BS on a punter being legitimately on top of the team's draft board, but it would seem Baalke stuck to his guys. We can't know this for certain since we don't actually see the board, but given the positions addressed, it would seem to indicate they were drafting the players they thought were the best available. Plenty will disagree about the specific best players available, but this draft was certainly about more than short term need.