49ers looking for versatility from draft picks
AP Sports Writer
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) – San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke looked for one clear trait to shine above all others when evaluating players ahead of the NFL draft: Versatility.
That was the word Baalke used over and over again during a film session with beat writers Thursday, breaking down tape on all of San Francisco’s 10 picks and showing why the team believes each was the right choice.
“What’s their versatility? What’s their impact on the team? We want guys to be able to do a variety of things,” Baalke said. “We want guys who bring value to the team and are good at more than just one thing.”
With the exception of second-round pick Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers expect all their new rookies to do multiple things and play multiple positions.
Baalke spent the bulk of the nearly two-hour session dissecting Kaepernick’s play at Nevada, highlighting traits that convinced San Francisco he can be the quarterback of the future. The ability to improvise with his athleticism and make something out of nothing was perhaps the most intriguing of Kaepernick’s skills for the 49ers.
One of the eye-popping plays that impressed Baalke on film coincidentally came in San Francisco at the Fight Hunger Bowl against Boston College: Kaepernick drops back, looks left, looks right, then fires a pass over the middle to his tight end streaking across the middle as five players – both safeties and all three linebackers – converge on the play, tucking the ball into a tight seam for a critical completion.
While some might call it a poor decision to throw into five defenders, Baalke saw it as a gutsy move that the 49ers need their quarterback to complete in the face of pressure.
“Do I want him making that throw? Absolutely,” Baalke said. “I want a guy that’s confident enough to throw it into the defense.”
The 49ers don’t plan to tinker with Kaepernick’s somewhat unconventional delivery, which is between a sidearm and over-the-top motion. Baalke equated it to the different styles of golf swings or batting stances that can be effective in their own ways.
“It’s the end result that matters,” he said.
What San Francisco does plan to change is some of its draftees’ positions.
Among the notables: No. 7 overall pick Aldon Smith was a defensive lineman at Missouri but will play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme; South Carolina’s Chris Culliver will make the switch from safety to cornerback; Central Florida defensive end Bruce Miller will move to fullback; and Michael Person of Montana State will make the move from left tackle to guard.
The 49ers also expect almost everyone – aside from Smith and Kaepernick – to contribute to special teams immediately. Not that any of these moves might take place this summer.
With the NFL lockout already canceling some offseason workouts, the transition from college might only be more complicated for players in this offseason of uncertainty.
Only a few veterans received playbooks during the brief time the lockout was lifted a couple of weeks ago, and the rest will have to find copies from teammates or fend for themselves to learn new coach Jim Harbaugh’s system.
“The lockout has certainly created some hurdles,” Baalke said. “The new coaching staff, new terminology. But hurdles have to be overcome. And we’ll find a way to get over them and clear them.”