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Theory: Trent Baalke's Draft Strategy is not traditional BPA

  • AmpLee
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Originally posted by blm7754:
I think Balke just defines "need" differently. Instead of saying "i need an OLB", he says "i need to improve my pass rush". Instead of saying "i need a WR", he says "i need more speed to stretch the field".

So its BPA to fill a need.... like what everybody else does. He is just smarter about identifying the needs.


Very well said.
I think too is another factor which I forgot to include........

They like versatility

Person, Kilgore, Looney, Slowey - can play multiple spots on the line

Bruce Miller - can play FB, but in a pinch could of probably played OLB

James - can play RB, TB, Slot, KR, PR, Gunner

Delanie Walker - is the ultimate "Joker" deluxe (Grudens favorite term).....WR, TE, HBACK, FB, KR, ST

Jenkins - All three WR spots and KR

Ahmad Brooks - OLB in 3-4, DE in the 4-3 package and Nickel, but also has played inside

That gives you a lot of extra tools to work with when you have a 46 man roster. Everything helps.
I believe it is a cross between the two. However, alot of people are forgetting that it is based on the niners system. Offensive guard for example. Baalke was quoted in a predraft article that he doesn't worry about what everyboy else is drafting only those that draft the kind of player the niners draft. For example, in the guard position, they were supposedly not looking for a guard that comes from a zone blocking scheme.
Originally posted by oldninerdude:
Originally posted by blm7754:
I think Balke just defines "need" differently. Instead of saying "i need an OLB", he says "i need to improve my pass rush". Instead of saying "i need a WR", he says "i need more speed to stretch the field".

So its BPA to fill a need.... like what everybody else does. He is just smarter about identifying the needs.

This seems the most concise explanation of a very complicated process.

It is, but I probably wouldn't group Baalke with "everybody else." Even if Baalke says it's a BPA formula, I think the way he appears to stack his board make it clear that he drafts neither strictly for positional need or for overall value, at least early on.

We are adding so many pieces, so many qualities to this team, it's pretty neat to look at and see what we're doing.

What did we lack last year?

* Tall receiver with speed who is a red zone threat? Check. (Randy Moss)
* Another receiver with speed that can catch it more often when he's open, deep or short? Check. (Jenkins)
* A reliable 3-deep stable of runners both to add explosiveness and for depth to in case Gore got hurt? Check. (James)
* A more reliable short yardage back (Dixon could never convert 3rd downs..)? (Jacobs)
* Pass-rushing (not just linebacker, but pass-rushing) depth in case of injury to starters? Check. (Fleming, Cam Johnson)

The only thing we are missing now that remains to be seen if we've fixed is a bolstered interior OL, and then DL depth in case of injury. We'll see how Kilgore, Ian Williams and Dobbs have developed, how Tukuafu has recovered, how Masifilio the rookie can do, and then if Looney can win a job and/or perform up to expectations.

I think after this season we will be able to put even more focus on the stuff just mentioned (OL and DL) considering Goodwin, Sopoaga, Justin Smith, and RJF's contracts (and even Tukuafu who will have only one year left if he plays well enough to make the team this year). Unless Ian Williams has done outstanding, we may/likely could look to add NT and DE successors.
Until Trent Baalke proves otherwise, I trust his judgement! The success of the 49ers' 2011 draft class gives me confidence in him.
[ Edited by PTulini on May 5, 2012 at 5:31 PM ]
Originally posted by PTulini:
Until Trent Baalke proves otherwise, I trust his judgement! The success of the 49ers' 2011 draft class gives me confidence in him.


Well said...and I will continue to believe he knows more than I do if he proves not to be perfect! I'll never get over the Miller pick...a thing of legends.
Originally posted by PTulini:
Until Trent Baalke proves otherwise, I trust his judgement! The success of the 49ers' 2011 draft class gives me confidence in him.

Agree completely. Doesnt mean I won't try to analyse and maybe even question some of his moves in the future, but that's just because I'm interested in understanding what's being done.
[ Edited by oldninerdude on May 5, 2012 at 11:15 PM ]
Originally posted by PTulini:
Until Trent Baalke proves otherwise, I trust his judgement! The success of the 49ers' 2011 draft class gives me confidence in him.

I trust Baalke, even though deep down I question a couple picks this year.
I sense we are seeing something that few coaches and GM's have ever been able to do, let alone as effectively as Harbalke. The are drafting players not just on BPA, or need, but both of these and maybe more importantly, on how they fit into the complex dynamic of all phases of an team functioning as a whole. The are looking beyond each potential draftee as more than a assemblage of factors such as on field stats, combine numbers, intangibles and value/ranking. Instead they are evaluating each one in light of how they fit into the team, as a dynamic system in which everything supports or synergizes with everything else. As many have said here, they realized that speed and big play ability on offense was what was keeping both the running game and passing game from clicking, thus Jenkins AND James, over more highly valued guards and WR's. This, of course affects time of possession, which affects how the defense performs. Can a player play multiple positions and even play occasionally on the opposite side of the ball, ie Sopoaga? How can I scheme with this guy in concert with the other 11 guys on that side of the ball? Bottom line, I sense these guys are BIG picture guys who are looking at so many subtle dynamics that many GM's and coaches simply are as capable of considering. We'll know after we see what happens with this draft class. If they synergize and perform like last years we'll know that magic is afoot.
An excellent thread. Going through the first round this year, I said to myself, this is the most needs-based draft I have seen in a long time. That is why we saw DeCastro plummet down to 24, as nearly every team from 6-23 went defense. Teams like KC, Chicago, and others will look back someday and see the bad judgment they used in selecting a primary needs player over a more talented secondary needs player.The Rams employed the correct strategy with Stephen Jackson years ago, as the Packers did with Aaron Rodgers. You really have to stay true to your draft board, unless you have a young stud under a lengthy contract on your roster.
Originally posted by KowboyKiller:
Great post. I always thought BPA was a misnomer, clearly every GM drafts the BPA at a position of relative need. If there's a position you have an all pro player at, and good depth, then if the highest rated player on your board is that same position, well you're not going to draft him.

And if a team comes along in the 4th and offers you a sixth and next year's third for your pick, you jump on it. I think Baalke would have done more of that if the offers had been there, as he's clearly been stockpiling for next year. Now how he uses those picks depends on what happens with all the college players next year and how the draft goes down, in addition to how the team does this year in terms of performance, injuries, and free agency. He could very well trade some of those picks for even higher picks the following year.

Likewise, if you have a position of HUGE need, you're going to pick a player that's lower on your draft board than other players who rate higher at positions you are stacked at. But it's not a black or white thing, "BPA" or "Draft for need", it's both at the same time, with gray areas. AJ Jenkins was Baalke's BPA at a position of relative need. If a GM were to come up with a formula to figure this out there would be a sort of weighted percentage for every position on the team based on its relative strength or weakness.

It's hard to say how the various receivers were rated by the team, although we have some clues in retrospect. Remember that they probably look at every inch of game tape over and over for dozens of receivers, and they'll see things that a YouTube highlights reel or even taping and watching the telecasts of college games won't reveal. If their on-telecast reaction wasn't a charade, I think it's pretty clear they had Kendall Wright rated higher than many Zoners did, and they very well may have had players like Floyd and Blackmon rated lower. They certainly felt Jenkins was the player they wanted at that spot, or they'd have traded down and let the Rams or some other team have him.

When you have a good team like the 49ers the grey area starts to look more like BPA because you pick a player that you believe will help you the most long term, because every position has a closer relative strength, therefore the value of each player based on their position starts to average out closer.

I can't read minds, but my hunch is that the Niners feel that Jenkins and James can be starters, or at least very substantial producers, from day one of the upcoming season, and they feel that the other players selected will either enhance competition at certain spots, provide depth, and raise the level of play overall, or be significant contributors on ST, which they emphasize more than most other teams.
[ Edited by 49erThrowback on May 6, 2012 at 8:05 AM ]
Originally posted by Gore_21:
I want to just add that I think too many of us get caught up in say 10 players in the draft (usually big name guys) and when we don't draft one where we think they are the BPA (or biggest name in a lot of cases) we get upset. I think they look at these guys as puzzle pieces and how they all fit in. So a lot of guys we might have liked they felt didn't fit into our system. They are also looking for a certain type of person... usually extremely competitive with great passion for the game. We don't get to interview these guys and talk to people that know them to get to find out more about them. Plus we don't get to see guys like Kilgore at RG practicing so we don't know what they expect from him and how much of a need they see the positions as. I think Baalke's board was a lot different than the experts. When they mock maybe some put guys that fit best with the scheme/style but rankings overall you can't judge based on 32 team's philosophies. Like AJ Jenkins could have been #10 overall on our board but completely off another team's board because maybe they didn't fit their style/system or already had a similar player. So Baalke could have went BPA and the rest of us think well so and so is a better WR than Jenkins without knowing or considering our need/fit.

P.S. Like Walsh said it doesn't matter where a player goes. If they are a good player than take them. Sure it's nice to get the best value but a lot of that is just for experts and fans to discuss. It's become a major hobby. It's not good enough you got the right player... now you have to get exact value. "Oh, we could have traded down to 32 and got Jenkins instead of taking him at 30". Trades aren't as easy as people think... takes two teams to work together and be willing to trade plus for the value to be right.

Frankly, most, but not all "experts" -- I think you mean commentators and analysts -- put together their mocks based on the following, in roughly this order:

  • The Combine. This is big business, folks.
  • The rumors they pick up from different teams, even though those may be smoke screens.
  • Pro Days. This gives the analysts stories they can file to keep their faces on the tube.
  • College production. Not talking game film so much, but stats and such. Weighted by final team rankings in the BCS poll.
  • Tape, interviews, and everything else.

That's why there's remarkable similarity between an overwhelming majority of analysts player rankings. When very little original thought or insight goes into it, not an unexpected result. Sports media is a copycat league.
[ Edited by 49erThrowback on May 6, 2012 at 8:02 AM ]
Originally posted by barrymartin:
I sense we are seeing something that few coaches and GM's have ever been able to do, let alone as effectively as Harbalke. The are drafting players not just on BPA, or need, but both of these and maybe more importantly, on how they fit into the complex dynamic of all phases of an team functioning as a whole. The are looking beyond each potential draftee as more than a assemblage of factors such as on field stats, combine numbers, intangibles and value/ranking. Instead they are evaluating each one in light of how they fit into the team, as a dynamic system in which everything supports or synergizes with everything else. As many have said here, they realized that speed and big play ability on offense was what was keeping both the running game and passing game from clicking, thus Jenkins AND James, over more highly valued guards and WR's. This, of course affects time of possession, which affects how the defense performs. Can a player play multiple positions and even play occasionally on the opposite side of the ball, ie Sopoaga? How can I scheme with this guy in concert with the other 11 guys on that side of the ball? Bottom line, I sense these guys are BIG picture guys who are looking at so many subtle dynamics that many GM's and coaches simply are as capable of considering. We'll know after we see what happens with this draft class. If they synergize and perform like last years we'll know that magic is afoot.

Another way to put this is that if you have a problem converting third downs, don't have third downs. Get a new set within two plays. Speed, versatility, and matchup nightmares will help with this.

Of course, scoring more quickly means your defense will take the field more often. But if you build leads that limit what the opponents can do, it can make defending easier.
[ Edited by 49erThrowback on May 6, 2012 at 8:08 AM ]
Originally posted by 49erThrowback:
Frankly, most, but not all "experts" -- I think you mean commentators and analysts -- put together their mocks based on the following, in roughly this order:

  • The Combine. This is big business, folks.
  • The rumors they pick up from different teams, even though those may be smoke screens.
  • Pro Days. This gives the analysts stories they can file to keep their faces on the tube.
  • College production. Not talking game film so much, but stats and such. Weighted by final team rankings in the BCS poll.
  • Tape, interviews, and everything else.

That's why there's remarkable similarity between an overwhelming majority of analysts player rankings. When very little original thought or insight goes into it, not an unexpected result. Sports entertainment is a copycat league.


This seems very likely and it is frustrating trying to find "experts" who actually do the work of getting to know each and every player through game film and interviews with coaches. I have to laugh when I watch all the wealthy, retired athletes on NFLN act like they spend every day in the film room watching college centers, etc. Of course, no one would watch if they had some unknown scouts giving their accounts.

Thinking about the way I get my information on the draft is very much in line with what you have listed...and I am not at all a draft guru! I will take credit for putting less credence in the combine than many "experts" because it is just not a football event, but is a track-fest. If they ran the 40 in pads and had people hit them with pillows to knock them off balance...then maybe...
Originally posted by 49erThrowback:
Originally posted by barrymartin:
I sense we are seeing something that few coaches and GM's have ever been able to do, let alone as effectively as Harbalke. The are drafting players not just on BPA, or need, but both of these and maybe more importantly, on how they fit into the complex dynamic of all phases of an team functioning as a whole. The are looking beyond each potential draftee as more than a assemblage of factors such as on field stats, combine numbers, intangibles and value/ranking. Instead they are evaluating each one in light of how they fit into the team, as a dynamic system in which everything supports or synergizes with everything else. As many have said here, they realized that speed and big play ability on offense was what was keeping both the running game and passing game from clicking, thus Jenkins AND James, over more highly valued guards and WR's. This, of course affects time of possession, which affects how the defense performs. Can a player play multiple positions and even play occasionally on the opposite side of the ball, ie Sopoaga? How can I scheme with this guy in concert with the other 11 guys on that side of the ball? Bottom line, I sense these guys are BIG picture guys who are looking at so many subtle dynamics that many GM's and coaches simply are as capable of considering. We'll know after we see what happens with this draft class. If they synergize and perform like last years we'll know that magic is afoot.

Another way to put this is that if you have a problem converting third downs, don't have third downs. Get a new set within two plays. Speed, versatility, and matchup nightmares will help with this.

Of course, scoring more quickly means your defense will take the field more often. But if you build leads that limits what the opponents can do, it can make defending easier.


If you play conservatively or make mistakes on first and second down the thirds become longer.

Early in the year it seemed like the team had second and twenty several times a game due to multiple offsides penalties. Then they would try to run gore up the middle numerous times a game on first down (against eight in the box). A blitzer coming untouched knocks the ball out of Smith's hand from behind (Det game). Then they drop a couple passes on first down...and there you have the offensive woes in a nutshell.

When Smith was put in a position where he had to perform he did well. When he was in a position where he had time to rely on others...not so much.
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