Not long after saying he “absolutely” expects Colin Kaepernick to be on the 49ers’ roster in 2016, general manager Trent Baalke added that he will continue to look for quarterbacks.
Quarterbacks were a hot topic as Baalke fielded questions at the NFL Scouting Combine Wednesday in Indianapolis. Baalke was asked about the gap North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz will experience, going from the FCS’ Missouri Valley Football Conference to the NFL.
“Well, I used to coach there," said Baalke, who was a graduate assistant and defensive line coach at NDSU in 1989. “They’ve put out a lot of good football players for a smaller, for a lower level of play that conference has.
“Certainly there’s a learning curve that they all go through. But, I don’t think it’s as drastic as some may. I think they’ve played at a high level. They’ve won five national championships in a row.”
[MAIOCCO: Baalke: 49ers will continue to 'kick the tires' on QBs]
Baalke then provided a brief scouting report on Carson Wentz, who is one of the top passers in the 2016 draft, along with Jared Goff of Cal and Paxton Lynch of Memphis.
“Carson was a part of four of those [national championships]. He’s a good football player," Baalke said. "He’s got the stature you’re looking for. He’s got the intelligence you’re looking for. There’s so many positives to draw from. Now, how soon, how ready is he going to be when he gets to the league? I think there will be a learning curve, but there is for everybody at that position.”
Baalke was also asked specifically about Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, who will become available this offseason after spending the past 1 1/2 seasons as a backup.
“You’re going to kick the tires of everybody that’s available,” Baalke said when asked about Griffin.
Would Griffin theoretically fit into Kelly’s system?
“If you look at the quarterbacks coach has had, he hasn’t had a bunch of guys that can run,” Baalke answered. “He’s been able to put together some pretty good offenses with guys that aren’t able to run. You get an extra advantage having a quarterback that can run. If you talk to any coordinator, they’re going to take that as a positive, but it’s not a necessity.”
Baalke was then asked about quarterback Sam Bradford, whom Kelly traded for and coached with the Eagles.
“You know, we didn’t play them last year, so I haven’t studied him in relative to what he did with coach’s offense,” Baalke prefaced. “But, he’s a good football player. He made a lot of plays for them, does a lot of good things. Without having great working knowledge, because once again I have not studied him in-depth.
“We played against him, and when we played against him thought no differently. He’s a good football player. I don’t know what else, I mean, he does a lot of things well. He’s not a runner. He’s a passer. He’s a pocket player and does a lot of good things from the pocket. Smart football player.”
Bradford, a six-year pro, is a free agent this offseason.
[RELATED: NFC West Scout: 'No problem' giving QB Adams shot in camp]
After evaluating three attainable quarterbacks, Baalke then delved into his personal philosophies regarding the quarterback position.
“There’s so much that goes into that position that you can’t see on film," Baalke said. "That’s why you’ve got to get the coaches with them, sit down, talk ball, do as much research as you can on them, their work ethic, their preparation habits, their intelligence. Everything that goes into it that you can’t see."
Baalke acknowledged that the 49ers prefer bigger quarterbacks, but that the team won't let that be the determining factor.
“There’s exceptions at every position. We prefer big, but does that mean that we’re not going to make an exception? No," Baalke explained. "We’ll look at every player and give them a value and make a decision, whether it’s through the draft or free agency, and try to get the best 53 we can…
“Quarterbacks of all shapes and sizes have had success in this league. We’re going to look at every one. We’re not going to pigeonhole ourselves and say, ‘They’ve got to be 6-3 or taller, or 6-4 or taller. They’ve got to be 220 or bigger.’ We’re not going to do that. We’re going to look at everybody that’s available and put a value on them for what we think they’re value is for us.”
Baalke has avoided committing to a specific plan surrounding the quarterback position this offseason, and alluded to both the draft and free agency as opportunities to create competition for Kaepernick and Gabbert.
“Well, we feel pretty good with the guys we have, but we’re always looking. We’re always looking," Baalke said. "And we’re certainly going to scour this draft and the free agency market that’s out there. There’s obviously not a lot of quarterbacks that make it to free agency, as we know. But, we’re going to look at every avenue.”
Baalke has drafted two quarterbacks during his tenure with the 49ers -- Kaepernick (Nevada, Round 2, 2011) and B.J. Daniels (South Florida, Round 7, 2013).
San Francisco 49ers media services contributed to this report