On draft day, I did it too. I was staring at my TV saying, "the 49ers did WHAT to get back into the first round?" My initial reaction was one of shock, then I became a little worried, then I saw what the 49ers did with the 42nd pick in the draft and all of a sudden it all became clear.
At the end of the day the 3 trades certainly made the team better, and they did so with little cost to the team. Here's a breakdown of the three trades the 49ers executed:
|49ers get...||Patriots get...|
|1st round, No. 28: Joe Staley, OT, Central Michigan||2008 1st round pick
4th round, No. 110 (traded to Oakland for Randy Moss)
|49ers get...||Colts get...|
|2008 1st round pick
4th round, No. 126: Dashon Goldson, DB, Washington
|2nd round, No. 42: Tony Ugoh, OT, Kansas|
|49ers get...||Seahawks get...|
|WR Darrell Jackson||4th round, No. 124: Mansfeld Wrotto, G, Georgia Tech|
Lets start with the first trade. You almost have to evaluate this one on its own since McCloughan did not know they would be able to trade back into the first round of the 2008 draft later. That fact only makes the deal sweeter.
While currently the offensive line is a strength on the team, it is not set for years to come. Larry Allen is in he twilight of a hall-of-fame career. Jonas Jennings has yet to play a full 16 game schedule for the 49ers. Tackle Kwame Harris and Guard Justin Smiley are set to become free agents at the end of the season and you have yourself a deteriorating line that would need some upgrades.
With that in mind the 49ers drafted Staley, a tackle who can play on both the right and left side as a replacement for Harris in the interim, and for Jennings in the future. This would allow Adam Snyder, a 3rd round pick of the 49ers in 2005, to move to guard thus enabling the team to let both Harris and Smiley go if that becomes the necessary option next season.
While the move would seemed to have cost them a lot, their first round pick in 2008 and a fourth round pick (110 overall), the assurance that the offensive line, the biggest determinant of success on the team (just ask Arizona) made it worth while. The next trade basically made 49ers fans expel a collective sigh of relief.
The 49ers traded their second round pick (42nd overall) to the Colts in exchange for the Colts' first round pick next year and their fourth round pick (126 overall). Lets presume, for just brief second of optimism, that the 49ers do make the strides the pundits expect. Lets say they go from 7-9 to 9-7, a reasonable jump. 9-7 teams drafted anywhere between 21st and 24th this year. If Indy wins back to back championships, then they will be drafting 32nd.
According to the NFL Draft Pick value chart, the 21st pick in the draft is worth 800 Billy the Big Mouth Basses. (You know, the ones that sing? Oh come on, you know you have one. Or at the very least you have an uncle that does. Okay, they really are just value points but that's so boring.) The 32nd pick is worth 590 Basses. That's a difference of 210 Basses. However, the 49ers gained 180 Basses by trading up. Then of course there's the 4th round values but that amounts to peanuts. Basically, if the 49ers finish around 9-7 the move more than paid off. If, of course, the 49ers go on to finish much worse the trade could have cost the 49ers a top 15 pick.
Then there was the big daddy of them all, trading for Darrell Jackson. It cost the 49ers one of their 4th round picks for a receiver who led the NFC West champions in receiving yards last season with 956 yards in 13 games and averaged over 15 yards per reception.
To say that the 49ers need a receiver is an understatement. It is, especially after the draft, the weakest unit on the squad. Think of Jake Berman in the movie Little Giants saying "I'll show you INTIMIDATION!" and you get a glimpse of the 49ers receivers' pre-game ritual. Unfortunately, alka-seltzer doesn't work in the NFL.
Jackson, if healthy, can add legitimacy to a thin corps of receivers. He becomes the man defenses key in on in the passing game, thus allowing Arnaz Battle and Vernon Davis to garner favorable match-ups. Add Frank Gore into the mix and you have the beginnings of what could be a potent offense.
The 49ers certainly did not solve all of their problems. They are still a young team, and Alex Smith still needs to show he can put together a full game of quality football, not just one half of it. But in looking at what the 49ers gained compared to what they lost in terms of trades, they certainly came out on top.
They not only came away with quality players, but they also managed to plan for the future so they can continue to build year after year. Preventing, rather than reacting to, crisis situations are how teams like The Patriots can continue to stay on top year after year. And while the 49ers aren't there yet, the people running the team certainly have a plan to get the team there sooner rather than later.