As you well know by now, I’m not a big fan of 49ers’ GM Trent Baalke. I’m also pretty skeptical about the newly hired head coach Chip Kelly. Their (presumably) joint performance in the 2016 draft has added fuel to the fire of my discontent.
By way of background, the way they’ve handled their whole QB situation is amateurish and unnerving. They failed to respond to early reports that Colin Kaepernick, the presumed starter who was treated shabbily last season, had asked to be traded. They allowed a major April 1 salary milestone to go by, paid him the $11.9 million he was due at that point, and then went radio silent. The Broncos had reportedly expressed interest in Kap, who would have been a great fit for their offense, but the two teams couldn’t come to a deal. (The Broncs may not have been all that serious considering they dangled a mid-round draft pick for a guy who, properly managed and coached, still has the tools to be a top-third NFL QB.) This whole silliness slopped over into the draft as the Niners were widely expected to pick a quarterback with their first-round pick at the seventh spot.
But the speculators — and I include myself in that, though I didn’t ever think it would be smart to draft a QB in this relatively weak class, at least past the second pick — forgot something. Kelly is an advocate of what he calls “positive yardage” offense. Translation: he really prefers to run the ball. So he manages to convince Baalke to keep Kap (or so it seems), who has great wheels. Then we see Baalke’s influence in making the first-round selection: DE Deforest Buckner out of Oregon. (His penchant for Ducks and Pac-12 players is the stuff of legend.)
Don’t get me wrong. Buckner has massive (literally…he’s 6-7 and 291) potential. In fact, using the NFL.com 10-point rating system for players in the draft, Buckner ranks second highest among any of the first-round players picked, at 7.2 (which translates to “All-Pro or Pro Bowl Ability”).
But defense was far from the most glaring need the Niners had coming into the draft. (Side note: the Broncos drafted the QB, Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, that most of the prognosticators thought would go to the Niners at #7.)
The Niners traded up to the 28th spot in the first round from the Chiefs and then used that somewhat costly move to draft…a freaking offensive lineman! By all accounts a pretty good one — Joshua Garnett (6-4/312) out of Stanford. But here’s the problem: he’s a left guard, and the Niners’ big free-agent acquisition this offseason was LG Zane Beadles. I’m with ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez on this one: “Strange pick, indeed, considering the bigger need is at right tackle.”
One final point: the Niners used their next two picks to add cornerbacks. This despite the fact that the team already has far more CBs on its roster than it could conceivably keep. Consider the current roster corners: Kenneth Acker, Tramaine Brock, Marcus Cromartie, Chris Davis, Dontae Johnson,and Keith Reaser. Now we can add Will Redmond (5-11/182 from Mississippi State) and Rashard Robinson (6-2/180 out of LSU) to the mix. Baalke says Redmond will play right away. I wonder if he’s making that decision already or if he’ll let his new coach decide. Wow. So now we have eight corners on the full roster.
Good luck with that, guys.
Based on my first take on these guys, I’m giving the Niners a C-minus for the 2016 draft, which still has a few rounds left to go but nothing significant is likely to happen the rest of the way.