Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

In his first five seasons as the San Francisco 49ers' general manager, Trent Baalke made six selections in the first round of the NFL draft. Those picks were: Anthony Davis (2010), Mike Iupati (2010), Aldon Smith (2011), AJ Jenkins (2012), Eric Reid (2013), and Jimmie Ward (2014).

Five of those players made an immediate impact and were or are long-term fixtures on the roster (although the juries still out on Ward, he was the team's nickel corner when healthy last season). The sixth player, however, was a bust of colossal proportions that set the team back at the receiver position

That bust, obviously, was Jenkins, who didn't catch a pass in his only season with the 49ers. As bad of a pick as it was, Jenkins is just another name in a long line of wide receiver flops for San Francisco.

Since drafting Terrell Owens in 1996, the Niners have selected a total of 18 receivers. Only six of those players have gained 1,000 yards in their entire 49er careers. Only one, Michael Crabtree, managed to gain 1,000 yards in a season. So out of 18 draft picks who played 50 individual seasons with the team, only once did any of them again 1,000 yards.

While Baalke wasn't there for all of these mistakes, he hasn't managed to select anyone of note at the position either. Since 2010, Baalke has taken five receivers in the draft. They are Kyle Williams (6th round, 2010), Ronald Johnson (6th round, 2011), Jenkins (1st round, 2012), Quinton Patton (4th round, 2013) and Bruce Ellington (4th round, 2014).

Out of those five, only Williams has more than six career receptions (to balance that out though, he single-handedly fumbled away the 2011 NFC Championship game). Johnson didn't make the team, and Patton has been a disappointment. It's unfair to judge Ellington at this point, however, as he just completed his rookie campaign.

Because of their inability to select a receiver, the position is almost a year-to-year revolving door in which new veterans are brought in every season in an effort to see what sticks. Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Stevie Johnson, and Brandon Lloyd are all familiar names that didn't live up to past production in recent years, despite the 49ers hoping to catch lightening in a bottle with them.

The one exception to this is Anquan Boldin, who has been the best player at the position the team has had since Owens. In two years in San Francisco, Boldin's averaged 84 catches for 1,120 yards and scored 12 total touchdowns.

Baalke is hoping to get similar production from Boldin's former Baltimore Raven's teammate Torrey Smith, who the team signed to a 5-year, $40 million deal this offseason. It's the largest free agent contract the 49ers have ever given to an offensive player, but when you can't draft a position you don't really have any other choices.

While Smith will be in the fold for the foreseeable future, Boldin could be in his final season with the Niners due to age and contract issues. Because of that, it's extremely likely Baalke will be looking to take a receiver early in the draft.


You know that kid who is playing Little League somewhere in America right now who is praying the ball doesn't get hit to him because he has no idea if he can catch it? That's kind of how I imagine Baalke is feeling about picking a receiver right now.

There are three of them in this draft who look relatively safe: Alabama's Amari Cooper, West Virginia's Kevin White and Louisville's DeVante Parker. There were some rumors previously that the 49ers had interest in exploring what it would take to move up and get Cooper, and that makes sense on many levels.

Cooper is seen as the safest pick at wide out, and the one most scouts consider to be a sure thing. Baalke is probably looking at it the same way...easy catch, can of corn.

The issue with that, however, is Cooper will be long gone when the 49ers pick at 15, and they may have to trade up as high as six to get him. That will be too steep a price considering the amount of holes the team currently has. White, who could go as high as four, is also probably a pipe dream.

Parker may be more of a realistic option, although there's a chance he can go anywhere from pick number 10 on. If he's off the board, Baalke may have a serious dilemma on his hands.

The rest of the receivers who the team could consider taking have some serious boom or bust potential and an argument can be made for taking them in the second round just as much as the first.

Names like Oklahoma's Doriai Green-Beckham and UCF's Breshad Perriman offer plenty of upside, but they could also be major disappointments.

Can Baalke afford to take another chance on a receiver?

I don't think he can, and that's why I believe if Cooper, White or Parker aren't an option, Baalke will draft another position in the first round and wait to address a pass catcher. It's an easy sell because the class is so deep at the position, and someone like Ohio State's Devin Smith or Michigan's Devin Funchess could provide early returns in the later rounds.

How this situation plays out on draft day will be interesting to say the least. Are you ready, Trent? The ball's coming your way.

Al Sacco has covered the 49ers for various sites over the years. He's been a guest on multiple podcasts and has had his work used by ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY. Follow Al on Twitter @AlSacco49