Around the 49ers, the draft is Trent Baalke’s time.
Baalke, the 49ers’ general manager, is never as out-front as he is during this time of year. He held a pre-draft press conference, then answered questions following all three days of the NFL Draft.
Now, he will fade to the background, and coach Chip Kelly becomes the voice of the organization.
Coach Jim Tomsula took the fall for the 49ers’ 5-11 season. Baalke remained in place. But, now, the pressure is on the general manager to produce after the organization signed Kelly to a reported four-year, $24 million deal.
Do you think this draft is make or break for Baalke? (Alberto Guzman)
It’s more complex than that. If this draft were “make or break,” then Baalke’s job would be safe for another two or three seasons. After all, that’s how long it takes to grade a particular draft.
In grading Baalke’s job as a general manager, everything has to be taken into account. That includes the role he played in building the roster that went to three consecutive NFC Championship Games with Jim Harbaugh as coach.
Of course, the failures of the 2012 draft, along with the continued evaluations of the players selected in the ’13, ’14, ’15 and, now, ’16 drafts, also have to be considered.
The failings of the organization was that virtually the entire starting lineup from the 2012 Super Bowl season was comprised of players who reached their peaks at the same time. The vast majority of the players either began their dramatic declines at the same time or reached free agency and departed. The next wave of players was either not developed enough or, simply, not good enough to keep the 49ers playing at a high level.
More than how this year’s draft class performs in its first year, the evaluations have to continue for such draft picks as Eric Reid, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Vance McDonald, Corey Lemonier, Quinton Patton, Jimmie Ward, Carlos Hyde, Marcus Martin, Brandon Thomas, Dontae Johnson, Bruce Ellington, Aaron Lynch, Kenneth Acker, Keith Reaser, Arik Armstead, Jaquiski Tartt, Eli Harold, Blake Bell, Trent Brown, DeAndre Smelter, Bradley Pinion and others.
So this regular season will indisputably be Baalke's time to be evaluated for the young players he has collected through recent seasons.
Why did the Niners move up for Garnett who didn't have any buzz as a first rounder? (Jeremy Wohlfart)
Stanford guard Joshua Garnett is the one player the 49ers wanted at that stage in the draft. He’s they guy they coveted, and they were clearly concerned another team would select him. (Perhaps, the Seattle Seahawks?)
“We looked at the next seven or eight picks and who was sitting there and their needs, and for us, why not?” Baalke said. “We like the guy. We like him a lot. We had that kind of value placed on him. Let’s go get him and let’s not sweat it out over the next seven picks.”
You never really know if a player would or would not have still been there.
Remember, A.J. Jenkins? OK, we can all agree that he was a horrible draft pick. But a lot of people wanted to say the 49ers reached on Jenkins because they could have taken him with their next pick. Well, apparently, the St. Louis Rams had other ideas. They reportedly had him targeted with a pick three spots later.
My point is, nobody really knows for sure when these players are going to be selected.
Who's playing next to Bowman next season? (Brad Peltier)
Right now, it looks as if either Michael Wilhoite or Gerald Hodges will line up next to NaVorro Bowman in the 49ers’ 3-4 defense. Shayne Skov remains on the 49ers, too.
One point to make on Wilhoite: He started all 16 games in 2014 in place of Bowman when the 49ers ranked fifth in the NFL in total defense. There were a lot of reasons for the 49ers’ dramatic drop in defensive production last year, and Wilhoite is far down on that list.