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As last year’s draft moved into its fifth round, San Francisco 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke saw a player he wanted, and didn’t hesitate.
He moved up to get him, trading sixth- and seventh-round picks with the Green Bay Packers to grab a big guy from a little school who might loom large in plans for 2012.
Daniel Kilgore, a 6-foot-3, 308 pound left tackle at Appalachian State was the target of Baalke’s interest last year, a lineman Baalke believed could move from left tackle to guard and become a solid NFL player.
Now, with last year’s starting right guard, Adam Snyder, departed in free agency (Cardinals) and his backup, Chilo Rachal, also a free agent, Kilgore has a chance to move into the lineup after having played just one snap in his rookie season.
When Baalke drafted Kilgore, who had been an All-Southern Conference selection in college, he described Kilgore as having excellent strength, balance and footwork and said: “He’s a tough guy and he finishes blocks.”
At Appalachian State, Kilgore was part of an offensive line that gave up just eight sacks in 13 games and helped lead the Mountaineers to a ranking of no. 8 nationally in rushing and no. 7 in scoring. A scouting report prior to last year’s draft by Scouts Inc. said Kilgore has a “powerful punch” that can knock rushers off balance, but needed work on sliding to the outside to handle pass rushers with good lateral quickness.
A move to the inside, at guard – where he’ll now compete to fill the only hole that needs to be filled on offense – would seem to play to his strengths and against his weaknesses.
The Niners could still sign a veteran free agent this offseason; they’ve interviewed former Arizona starter Deuce Lutui and have reportedly shown interest in free-agent and former Cardinal/Cowboy/Lion Leonard Davis.
As Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle noted on his blog recently, it’s probably unnecessary for the 49ers to use their first-round pick in this April’s draft, No. 30 overall, on a right guard. Many top-echelon guards have been found in later rounds he reported – such as Pro Bowlers Kris Dielman, Carl Nicks, Jahri Evans and Will Shields – so, the 49ers could use their first-round pick on another position, and go for a guard in a later round.
Stanford guard David DeCastro is considered a possible late first-round pick, who could fall to the 49ers, but other highly rated guards might be available later, such as Midwestern State’s Amini Silatolu.
Also, there is Kilgore, who still hasn’t had a chance to show what he can do after a year of practicing and learning.
Obviously, Baalke liked what he saw a year ago in trading up to get him.
Soon, the 49ers will find out if Kilgore has what it takes.