Recently, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said his team’s draft preparations were at a good stage.
With many weeks remaining until the start of the NFL draft on May 8, Baalke said the team’s draft board – its rating of players at every position and its draft strategy – was “60 to 65 percent” complete.
“There could be some big maneuvers,” Baalke told the team’s website. “But, generally speaking, it’s just massaging the board a little bit.”
Still to be done, however, are many in-person scouting sessions and interviews with prospective draftees at private workouts and pro days. Though Baalke, his staff and head coach Jim Harbaugh have watched film and seen workouts at the recent NFL Combine, the 49ers haven’t yet had a chance to interview all the players they like.
One of those players Baalke finally had a chance to see and speak with this week was Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans – which, of course, immediately set off speculation.
The Niners need a receiver and Evans is one of the best available in the draft, so might he be their No. 1 target in Round 1?
The answer is a definite maybe.
Evans, the top receiver for A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, had 151 catches over the past two seasons for 2,499 yards and 17 touchdowns. He’s a big target at 6-foot-5 and 231 pounds, ran a solid 4.47-second 40-yard dash at the combine and has the longest arms of any of the top-ranked wideouts in the draft, at 35 1/8 inches – a trait Baalke admires.
So it made sense that Baalke has interest in Evans, when Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweeted Wednesday that “Mike Evans just said he met with the Patriots yesterday and the 49ers today. He met with 20 teams at the combine.”
“Given his pedigree, of course, Evans could provide immediate help as a rookie,” wrote Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, after Williams’ tweet about Evans’ meeting. “He possesses speed the 49ers don’t have outside and his frame – he’s 4 inches taller than Crabtree and Boldin – could make him an attractive red-zone target. Last year, the 49ers ranked 15th in red-zone touchdown percentage (53.0).”
The only wide receiver ranked higher than Evans in the draft, according to the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, is Clemson’s Sammy Watkins.
Which means that the 49ers, who draft 30th, would have to make a move much higher in the draft in order to get into position to have a shot at him. With a dozen picks, San Francisco is well-positioned to do just that.
But, Baalke – just like every other NFL GM – won’t tip his hand. He’s still evaluating, still doing interviews, still listening to his staff and Harbaugh.
But, as Bill Williamson of ESPN.com noted, it’s now apparent that Evans has the 49ers’ attention.
“We won’t know if the 49ers truly covet Evans until May 8,” wrote Williamson, “but it’s noteworthy he is part of pre-draft inquiry.”