Some, it seems, will never learn.

A year ago, like every year, the various "experts" had their say. Speaking with one, collective voice, they gave Trent Baalke his limited options. With your first-round pick, Trent, you can take this guy, or that guy, or maybe a third. But you'd better not take anyone else. You might have the fancy title, but we're the ones with the Twitter accounts, and therefore we decide what's right.

We've told you who's worthy of your first-round pick. You don't want to face our wrath.

Baalke, of course, went off the grid, defying every "expert" prediction. And face their wrath he certainly did. "Reach!," they screamed, as if he'd jumped the gun by six rounds. He tried to explain that the league's actual decision-makers thought differently, that his selection would've been off the board only four picks later. The "experts" blinked for a minute or two, and then their voices rose up again: "See? You could've traded down three picks! Reach!"

Fast-forward a year. Due in large part to that first-round pick, Baalke was the league's top executive. Yet the "experts" had their say again. With your first-round pick, Trent, you can take Stephen Hill, a wide receiver; Coby Fleener, a tight end; or (with Kevin Zeitler off the board) Amini Silatolu, a guard. But you'd better not take anyone else....

Caught up in all the hysteria, I weighed our limited options. Forget Silatolu: right guard's our only starter unknown, but last year we'd traded up for Dan Kilgore; obviously we should give him a try before we go and draft his replacement. Forget Fleener: athletic tight-ends are all the rage, but we've already got two of the best.

So it had to be Hill. Heading into the offseason, wideouts were clearly our greatest need. We made some waves by replacing Josh Morgan with Mario Manningham, and Braylon Edwards with Randy Moss. But needless to say, those moves didn't guarantee any improvement. We needed more. So it had to be Hill.

Yet Baalke again went off the grid. He agreed with the idea for a wideout, but instead of Hill he picked A.J. Jenkins, whom most "experts" had tagged for the second or third. "Reach!," they screamed. Baalke tried to explain that Jenkins too had been underrated, and indeed, the papers immediately reported that the Rams would've taken him only three picks later. Plus, when the Rams did pick, they took Brian Quick, passing on Hill. In the end, even the thought of Hill (with his 49 catches for 1,248 yards through three years of college) over Jenkins (with his 90 catches for 1,276 yards last year alone) seemed largely absurd.

But the "experts" still would not go quietly. One local writer went out of his mind, wailing that Baalke had "blown" the pick and branding him with a scarlet F. (An F!) And it goes to show you how they think. Never mind that Baalke had added an explosive playmaker to a team that needed nothing more. He'd done it, you see, with a pick that hadn't been "preapproved." And though last year he'd done precisely the same, he had to face the wrath again.

Some, it seems, will never learn.

Undaunted by the cacophony, Baalke soldiered on. Dissatisfied with merely one explosive playmaker, he added a second, in LaMichael James. Reviews of this selection were generally more favorable—the aforementioned local writer allowed that Baalke had "partially redeemed" himself—but still there were those who dismissed James as merely a third-down back. Evidently they were unaware that James was unquestionably this draft's closest thing to Darren Sproles, an every-down utility man whose mere presence opens up both the run and the pass.

With these two picks, Baalke's message was perfectly clear and clearly perfect. Last season, as we were grinding out win after win on the strength of an endless procession of field goals, these same "experts"—who moonlight during the season as "experts" on the game itself—applauded Jim Harbaugh for what they thought was his old-school style, as if he was trying to stay out of the end zone. Baalke, of course, knew differently: our field-goal O was a product of need, not choice. Indeed, with enough weapons—and with, please God, continued progress by his quarterback—Harbaugh would simply crush his opponents.

And Baalke was perfectly fine with that. "What we've tried to do," he said matter-of-factly, "is add speed and explosiveness to this offense." A speedy, explosive offense, to match with the league's best defense and special-teams? That's a draft vision that any "expert" should understand.

Having executed that vision, Baalke went on to add the expected depth: on the offensive line, at outside 'backer, at safety. Sure, it would've been nice to add a bit on the defensive line and at cornerback, but hey, with seven picks you can't do it all. (Especially when, as Baalke wisely does, you refuse to take a less talented player just because he plays a position you'd ideally prefer.) Add it all up, and Baalke changed our offensive culture, deepened the roster in three areas of need, and racked up three extra picks in '13.

Yet the early grades from the "experts" are no better than a B, and sometimes much worse. You just can't help but shake your head.

Trust me, I see the irony. When Baalke was new, I was perhaps his most vocal critic. And to make my case, I relied on the same "experts" I'm bashing now. But Baalke now has proven himself. He's proven his understanding, of those most basic things: of players' talents, of his coaches' abilities to enhance those talents, of what his roster truly needs. He's just proven he gets it.

As we've learned through painful experience, this isn't the case with every GM. That's why the "experts" make their dough; occasionally they do know more. But in Baalke's case, they just don't. And thus their little industry of first- and second-guessing—their mocks, their analyses, their instant grades—it just becomes ridiculous.

The unwashed masses can trust the "experts."

I myself will trust Trent Baalke.