Smokescreen season. NFL front offices foul the football air with misinformation, prevarications, and outright lies, all in too-clever attempts to conceal their potential intentions in the pending draft. Fans become decoders, interpreters, gridiron-state conspiracy theorists. We mock drafts, mull potential trades, and ponder team needs. Some decipher the entrails of goats, while others read tea leaves or embark on Twitter quests. Thus do the NFL powers-that-be hold us in thrall, even during the so-called off-season. And they've got it right; for fans, this stuff is fun. Anticipation of the draft often eclipses the draft itself.

Sometimes, front offices fall hard for the hype themselves. The hullabaloo surrounding the draft blends with individual biases to induce occasional bonehead decisions, such as the infamous Saints' draft twenty years ago when the team traded away its entire allotment of picks, and more, to select one player. 49er fans, more recently, still chafe at our team's 2017 first few selections. Perhaps Lynch and company have learned. Perhaps they were just unlucky. Perhaps Solomon Thomas and Ahkello Witherspoon will yet join George Kittle as all-pros. Perhaps Reuben Foster will lead the Redskins to Super Bowl glory.
With all the fun-though-fickle predictions and inevitable failed prognostications that mark NFL draft season, let us ourselves merrily join in the foolishness, assess assorted red-and-gold speculations of late, and consider how the 49ers might dodge some of them:

The Niners should stick with Bosa, a no-brainer pick.

True enough, assuming Arizona, or a trade-up team, doesn't take him first. He seems a strong fit, the Niners need another defensive end, and many experts have anointed him as the draft's best player. But wait a minute. What if the 49ers don't think so? What if they worry, given their already walking-wounded roster, about Bosa's long-term health? In any case, no one player is ever an absolute sure thing. And the 49ers still have plenty of extra holes to fill. They could well use the extra picks the overall second selection might bring. But:

The 49ers should not trade down unless they get a mega-offer.

Not necessarily. What if Lynch and company love them some Bosa, but love them some Quinnen Williams and Josh Allen just as much? Kyler Murray goes first. Or doesn't. Oakland wants to trade up for, say, Murray or Dwayne Haskins, and the 49ers trust that the Raiders will take a quarterback with the second pick. Well, then, the 49ers, with two or more draft crushes still on the board, should trade down to the fourth spot, where one of those crushes will still be available. They should trade down even if they come out on the short end of the draft trade-value chart. In this instance, any trade capital they pick up in return they could consider found money. This trade closely mimics the Niners' trade-down with Chicago in 2017 to choose Solomon Thomas. Of course, we now know that, with that third-overall selection, the 49ers could have traded down again, and may well have still nabbed Thomas with a later pick. Teams that become overly anchored on one or two players usually pay the opportunity cost of lost draft capital. But that doesn't seem to faze the current iteration of the Prospectors' top brass. They identify a select few players, whether in free agency or the draft, and go after them gangbusters, regardless of cost. Thank goodness Marathe knows how to structure contracts. Still, the Niners' "grab 'em while you can" mentality does have its merits:

The 49ers dare not trade down so far that they miss out on a position-of-need stud.

In the inexact science of team-building, today's stud can quickly become tomorrow's dud. But let's play along. Say, to continue our previous scenario, the 49ers trade down to pick four, and the Giants phone with an offer to trade up. Except, instead of their sixth pick, New York offers their overall seventeenth selection, along with a boatload of other picks, say two more choices in this year's top one-hundred and two miscellaneous picks in next year's draft. Or Maybe Denver wants to trade up. Or Green Bay. Or, heck, anybody. Bosa? Gone. Williams? Gone. Allen, likewise gone, along with Sweat, Burns, and Grandma Whistler. Kyle Shanahan hastily excuses himself from the war room. John Lynch begins to bawl. Jed York, with his very bare hands, disintegrates the white board, leaving the ranked shards of potential future 49ers stars to drift to the floor like the discarded dust of fool's gold. And 49er fans everywhere curse the ghost of Joe Thomas. But wait another minute. Just who determines the need-positions for the 49ers?

Everybody knows the 49ers need a pass rusher, a wideout, and a safety.

Well, sure, but what if the 49ers themselves see other needs, almost, if not entirely, equally pressing? As an example, take last year. Very few mockers had the Niners selecting an offensive tackle with pick number nine. The Niners themselves had made little noise about selecting Mike McGlinchey. But they took him, and the Raiders, picking one slot later, scrambled. Once again, this year, the 49ers have remained relatively silent about their potential offensive-line needs. Certainly, it behooves them to have the whole starting gang back together going into the 2019 season. But, as with Brown last year, much depends on how the brass views its current o-line players, and that includes future contracts, injury recoveries, projected quality of play, and possible position switches. For instance, what if, after Joe Staley retires, they believe McGlinchey will have difficulty transitioning to left tackle, or that he's just too valuable at right tackle to move? And what if they think Joe might retire as soon as next season? They might see left tackle as a looming need. Or what if they think McGlinchey someday can make the move to left tackle, but that Joshua Garnett will never pan out and that Weston Richburg's play will remain substandard? In that case, someone who could play guard next season, while moving Person to center, and who could eventually take over right tackle, might be a draft target. Like last year, the 49ers themselves have not made an excessive show about acquiring offensive linemen. Sometimes, where there's no smoke, there's future fire.

Don't believe anything general managers say this time of year.

Maybe, but sometimes the most effective smokescreen, since no one will believe you anyway, is to just strait out blurt the truth. And half-truths often work better than full-on lies. For example, several weeks back, John Lynch opined that "We like our safety group." A former safety himself, Lynch may have meant it, which of course does not preclude the team from picking another one high in the draft. But, also, Lynch now has a roster mostly consisting of players he himself acquired, and he may be in the mode of wait-and-see patience so that his acumen at selecting promising players can soon shine forth. Likewise with other position groups, such as cornerback. I myself don't believe you can have enough quality cover guys, but John Lynch may believe that a high draft pick at these positions may unnecessarily block his developmental players.

The 49ers are only two or three players away from championship contention.

Very, very few teams lack only two or three players to make them world beaters, and those we identify mostly in retrospect. We fans fixate on the draft not just because it feeds our immediate sports addiction, but because it gives us clues as to how our front offices, and their strategies, may play out over the course of multiple seasons. If Shanalynch think they have a roster nearly fit for contention, they may indeed identify those two or three players who will put them over the top, and direct most of their draft capital toward securing them. Likely, though, they will try to have it both ways, targeting those three possible starters while still fortifying the rest of the roster. If they can accomplish this, they will have had a successful draft, whether they trade around or not.