When former San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke stumbled his way into a couple of somewhat decent drafts and made the 49ers roster one of the best in the league, he began to get a certain amount of pedigree for his decisions. Some people didn’t know who Aldon Smith was or wondered why he was taken so early in 2011—it turned out pretty darn good in the end. Outside of the draft, Baalke was known for making some great trades at such low value, the trade of Anquan Boldin for a 6th round pick comes to mind here.
The term “draft ninja” was flung at Baalke and it stuck. A ninja was born, one who wheeled and dealed and forced us to trust the process when he drafted some kid out of Illinois to later be known as A.J. Jenkins. Trusting the process later led to fans abandoning it and then wanting to set it on fire as Baalke’s job went on and on with little consequence.
On Thursday, John Lynch made his first big trade in the draft with 49ers executive Paraag Marathe’s help: he absolutely quick-changed the Chicago Bears into moving up one spot for a quarterback that while talented, came with a multitude of question marks. Then he turned around and drafted who he was going to take anyways, Solomon Thomas. There were rumors that the 49ers were hyping up Trubisky and trying to get teams to bite in a trade, but most of it was speculated as a smoke screen.
Smoke screen or not, Lynch got the Chicago Bears to bite in what may have been the most lopsided deal in the draft just for the 49ers to wait a few extra minutes to pick their guy. The organization wasn’t done, as they handed Seattle the ‘free’ 4th round pick they got from Chicago and moved back into the 1st round to select Reuben Foster. While Foster certainly slid, and it’s a Trent Baalke kind of pick to take a player sliding down and determining value, there’s something there. Or at least we can tell ourselves that.
Then on day two, he took that 3rd round pick the Bears gave him and turned it into a 2018 second rounder in a trade with the New Orleans Saints. Good lord, who is this guy? Later on, some trades were made, for better or worse, but there’s no denying the brilliance of the first two rounds.
Ladies and gentleman: has a ninja returned? We haven’t used this term since the 49ers organization was leveled and ruined after Trent Baalke’s white-belt ninja skills. All I can say is, I’m happy to be bringing back my ninja animations. Even if it’s for a short while.
But is he...a draft ninja?