Baalke: 49ers' draft based on talent, not need
David White, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Trent Baalke remembers his predraft routine around this time, last year. Every morning, he'd go for a walk with then-49ers general manager Scot McCloughan, and they would air out their thoughts before getting ready for daylong meetings.
Baalke and McCloughan didn't talk so much about the need to address the offensive-tackle position, or some grand concerns about the quarterback spot. They were dreaming about a top-five talent tumbling into their lap at the No. 10 spot.
"We actually for a week talked about the possibility of Michael Crabtree falling to us," Baalke said. "When Michael fell to us, it was a pretty easy decision to make."
Easy, because the 49ers weren't interested in addressing their most pressing needs. They wanted to pick the best player on the board, whether they needed him or not.
McCloughan is now gone, ousted five weeks ago. Don't expect that draft philosophy to change under Baalke, the director of player personnel who has been handed McCloughan's final say authority for today's NFL draft.
Yes, the 49ers need a cornerback and a safety to strengthen the secondary. Absolutely, they need an offensive tackle, like now, to protect the quarterback.
That doesn't mean the 49ers will use their two first-round picks - No. 13 and No. 17 overall - to plug those leaks. That's what makes them such an unpredictable factor in this draft, capable of single-handedly ruining every mock draft on Earth's face.
Team officials say Alex Smith is their quarterback, but they won't rule out drafting a quarterback if, say, Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen falls their way. They talk up the trade for speed receiver Ted Ginn Jr., but won't allow that to disqualify them from taking, perhaps, Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant.
"When you're up in the first round, you're trying to put the best football players you can on your team," Baalke said. "I think that's exactly why you don't lock yourself into positions. That's why you place value on players and you draft based on their value and not just on your need.
"We're a value-based team. The board is going to reflect their value as a player. Then, we'll address the needs."
This can make for some fascinating scenarios, starting with Bryant.
Bryant would be long gone by No. 13 if he didn't knucklehead his way to a season-ending suspension last season, lying to NCAA investigators about his involvement with NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders.
If Bryant is there as expected, the 49ers will have decided if the reward is worth the risk. They interviewed him at the NFL combine. They hosted him at team headquarters.
Coach Mike Singletary and Baalke went to so far as to travel to Bryant's personal pro-day workout in east Texas. Name another prospect who got three rounds of face time with them.
"You put on the film, and the film says yes," Baalke said of Bryant's lid-lifting speed. "You take the stopwatch, the stopwatch says no. We believe what the films tells is and, every chance he's had, he's gotten behind people, he's gotten deep. We definitely feel he's the type of guy who can do the same things in the NFL.
"We have no problems with Dez Bryant's character. None whatsoever."
The situation is no different with Clausen. He is clearly the second-best quarterback, which makes him a value at No. 13.
The 49ers insist Smith is their quarterback, but the 2005 No. 1 pick is under contract through 2010, then that's it.
Remember, the 49ers say they are a value-based team. That makes Clausen all the more plausible if he gets past the Seahawks, Raiders and Bills.
"It's always a possibility, you just never know," Singletary said. "It depends on, 'Is he the best guy on the board?' We might have to look at it. I'm never going to say, 'We won't take a quarterback, we've got our guy.' I'm not going to do that."
Which is why they just might, assuming they don't trade down.
After all, if Baalke says nothing has changed in the draft philosophy, and the 49ers haven't gone defensive back in the first round since 2002, and haven't gone cornerback in the top 17 since Ronnie Lott in 1981, and haven't taken an offensive lineman in the top 17 since 1966 ...
Then the unexpected shouldn't be so unexpected.
CJ SPILLER A POSSIBILITY??
[ Edited by LA49erFan4ever on Apr 22, 2010 at 12:43 AM ]