Hats off to 49ers GM Trent Baalke, who put on an amazing show at the 2014 NFL Draft. Maybe he was juiced up by all the offseason talk about who had more value to the franchise — him or Jim Harbaugh. Nobody can tell how this draft class will look two or three years down the road, but there’s no doubt Baalke deserves an A for effort at the very least.
After a quiet first round, Baalke was a man possessed on day two. Wheeling and dealing on a day long frenzy of trades up and down the board, he managed to haul in blue chip prospects at running back (Carlos Hyde), center (Marcus Martin), inside linebacker (Chris Borland), and the yearly ACL red shirt steal, an offensive tackle/guard (Brandon Thomas).
But the biggest immediate impact player Baalke netted might be the trade with Buffalo for wide out Stevie Johnson, a very good player who finally gives the team a bona fide three deep receiver corps. Throw in the veteran offseason acquisition Brandon Lloyd, and the team is even legitimately four deep at WR. All we need now is an offense that uses that many WRs. Maybe Baalke’s boldness will rub off on OC Greg Roman.
On the third and final day of the draft, Baalke picked up a slew of interesting “prospects.” Three CBs (Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser, Kenneth Acker), a speedy WR/Kick returner (Bruce Ellington), a pass rusher (Aaron Lynch), a DE (Kaleb Ramsey), and a FB (Trey Millard). Like Thomas, Reaser will red shirt this year, too.
The 49ers are relying this year on two players who have never been tested by the NFL fires — ILB Michael Wilhoite, who’ll fill half the year for rehabbing Navorro Bowman, and RB Marcus Lattimore, who red-shirted last year. That’s not a feel good situation. So Baalke picked up Borland and Hyde to hedge the bet.
Despite LaMichael James’ best efforts to get traded or released, he’s still the primary punt/kick off guy heading into 2014. That could change if 4th round pick Ellington shines in the preseason, but James is game tested and Ellington isn’t. LaMichael may have to tough out another year of being disrespected before finally escaping to some other franchise.
Interesting observation from Eric Branch of the Chronicle: After draft trades, what 49ers have netted from 2 2nd-round picks from Chiefs for Alex Smith: DL Carradine, RB Hyde, LB Borland, OLB Lemonier, and a 2015 4th round pick. That’s a seriously decent haul of talent for one guy. It might not be up there with the OJ Simpson or Herschel Walker trades, but it’s in the vicinity.