Marcio Jose Sanchez-AP

Marcio Jose Sanchez-AP



The San Francisco 49ers are set to hold their rookie minicamp May 16th-18th, and the team will finally be able to have their 2015 draft class (as well as any undrafted free agents) at the team facility for an extended look.

If you're like me, you're excited to see what this new group of players can bring to the table, but skeptical at the same time. You see, I feel like the 49ers are a borderline playoff team, and could have used an impact player or two through the draft to help make a significant difference 2015.

General Manager Trent Baalke didn't see it that way though, and took a surprising approach the the draft that centered around building for the future. So how will these picks ultimately fit it?

Round 1
Arik Armstead, DT, Oregon

What's the plan? While he's still very raw, the 49ers feel Armstead has the tools and size (6'7 290 pounds) to eventually be a very disruptive force on the defensive line. They know Armstead needs time to develop, but will take their chances that Jim Tomsula and company can help him reach his potential.

While Tomsula was in charge of the d-line from from 2007-2014, they were consistently one of the best fronts in the league. The 49ers ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (98.4), second in yards per attempt (3.72) and third in points allowed (19.4) during this stretch.

With a deep unit, the 49ers will rotate Armstead in 2015, with the hopes he can play a more vital role in the near future.

Reality check: A boom or bust pick in every way, Pro Football Focus listed Armstead as someone who "has first round tools and barely day two tape." He could have trouble even getting on the field this season, which makes his selection at number 17 a little puzzling for a team that could have used someone to step in right away at cornerback or wide receiver.

Look, I get it. Tomsula has made the most out of the players he's had to work with. After all, What did Abrayo Franklin, Isaac Sopoaga or Ricky Jean-Francois do after they left San Francisco? Even Justin Smith never made a Pro Bowl until he started working with Tomsula. But this pick can go either way and taking a project defensive lineman who has only played meaningful football for a short time in the first round scares me (i.e. Kentwan Balmer).

Round 2
Jaquiski Tartt, SS, Samford

What's the plan? At 6'1 and 220 pounds, Tartt is a physical player who can pack a punch in the back of the defense. With Antoine Bethea aging and Eric Reid having a history of concussions, Tartt provides insurance and is someone the team envisions starting in the next year or two.

While he'll no doubt be a contributor on special teams in year one, another role that's been mentioned for Tartt is playing in dime situations. The 49ers rarely ran a dime defense because they had two inside linebackers who could cover in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. With Wilis retired and Bowman coming off of an injury, that may no longer be the case and could open a door for Tartt.

Reality Check: Considering Bethea's age (31) and Reid's history of concussions, you can understand why Baalke would want some depth here, but Tartt's selection makes little sense in the second round. If Bethea plays the way he did in 2014 and Reid is healthy, Tartt has no chance to crack the starting lineup until 2017. Tartt has the ability to be a very good player, but a second round pick on someone who will be a special teams player and (possibly) a dime defender for the next two years?

Round 3
Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia

What's the plan? Aaron Lynch is ready to take over for Ahmad Brooks, but the team could use another outside linebacker if Aldon Smith isn't resigned. While Harold's role will be limited this season, his development will be crucial if Smith is elsewhere in 2016. Even if Smith is retained, Harold gives the Niners excellent depth at the position and provides late first round value in the the third.

Reality Check: You can never have enough pass rushers and Harold is an explosive player off the edge who fits perfectly in San Francisco's 3-4 scheme. He might not play much initially, but he has the potential to be a double digit sack threat year in and year out. Smith is a risky player to commit $15-$20 million of guaranteed money to, and Harold provides insurance. He was probably the best pick Baalke made.

Round 4
Blake Bell, TE, Oklahoma

Whats the plan? With Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald, Derek Carrier and Garrett Celek all on the roster, the 49ers took Bell to stash away and develop. Bell is a former quarterback who was converted to tight end, so he's still learning the position. He could see work in short yardage packages initially and, at 6'6, is a big target in the passing game.

Reality check: Bell is a bit of a project who needs to get stronger and develop his game as a tight end. With Davis in the last year of his deal and McDonald looking more and more like a bust, the door will be open for Bell to make an impact in 2016. He's worth a shot in the fourth round (which is when you should take these kinds of risks) and could eventually be a regular contributor if the team shows patience with him.

Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina

What's the plan? With a straight ahead approach that works best in-between the tackles, Davis is a good fit for the 49ers' power running scheme. Carlos Hyde is the unquestioned starter and the future at the position, but Kendall Hunter and Reggie Bush are only signed for one-year. Davis will provide depth and someone who could see some short yardage work in his rookie year.

Reality check: While the team had two good change of pace runners in Hunter and Bush, they lacked someone who could be a bell cow if Hyde were to get injured. They filled that need with Davis, and may have gotten a solid backup running back for years to come.

DeAndre Smelter, WR, Georgia Tech

What's the plan? Baalke's annual "ACL pick," Smelter will most likely be stashed away as he recovers from his injury. Smelter is said to have excellent football intelligence and is a big, physical receiver who can win against tight coverage. The 49ers will hope he can eventually complete to take over for Anquan Boldin and be a compliment to Torrey Smith on the other side.

Reality check: Smelter is an excellent fourth round pick and could provide big returns in the next year or two, but haven't we seen this movie before? In what was an deep and talented draft at wide receiver, Baalke passed on all of them and took a shot at someone in the mid-rounds instead.

I would like the pick more if he was the second receiver taken, and not the only one in the draft class. Best case scenario is he takes over for Boldin in a year or two, worst case is he goes the way of other mid-round wide outs taken by the 49ers in recent years and never really amounts to much.

Round 5
Bradley Pinion, P, Clemson

What's the plan? It's possible the team feels that Andy Lee in on the decline and getting too expensive to keep. It's also possible that they see Pinion as more of a kickoff specialist. I guess that's the plan.

Reality check: Lee didn't have his best season in 2014, but did average 46.8 yards per punt. Still, even if Lee started kicking the ball behind him, I can't see the need to take punter (or a kickoff specialist) in the fifth round when the position could easily have been addressed with an undrafted free agent. Very puzzling.

Round 6
Ian Silberman, OL, Boston College

Round 7
Trenton Brown, OL, Florida

What's the plan? These two picks are bunched together because I think the plan is the same. Take a shot on two developmental offensive lineman late in the draft and hope it amounts to something down the road.

Reality check: No complaints with this approach. Both Silberman and Brown seem like safe picks who the 49ers feel could eventually compete for a roster spot. With the way the team recycles interior lineman, it can't hurt to have bodies with potential.

Rory Anderson, TE, South Carolina

What's the plan? Because Anderson battled injuries, his draft stock could have taken a hit. He's an explosive, fast tight end though, who looks to be more of a receiving weapon than a blocker. Like Bell, he's worth a shot considering the question marks at tight end beyond 2015.

Realty check: An excellent seventh round choice who could surprise some people if and when he's healthy. Tight ends like Anderson who can stretch the seams can create matchup problems for defenses and, therefore, find a way onto the roster.

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