Head coach Jim Harbaugh (left) and GM Trent Baalke know this draft can be a big winner for the 49ers if they make good decisions. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Just after the Super Bowl, 49ers GM Trent Baalke was talking about his team’s preparation for the April draft and the flexibility it has with a league-high stockpile of 14 draft choices.
Baalke said it’s a great position to be in, of course, but he also said, “I don’t know that we need 14 rookies.”
Baalke said the multiple picks give the Niners a chance to be creative and move up or down in the draft order.
In fact, it’s a chance for San Francisco to not only help itself for this season – to get the players it needs, say, at safety, cornerback and the defensive line – but also set itself up for draft success in the coming years.
Mike Sando, who covers the NFC West for ESPN.com, examined the 49ers’ draft scenario this week and says the team is very likely to trade some of its choices this season for picks in 2014, 2015 or beyond.
“They appear to have more picks than available roster spots,” he wrote.
Though three of the picks (one in the fifth round, two in the seventh) cannot be traded because they are compensation picks awarded by the league, that leaves 11 choices the team could trade.
Sando cited several instances where teams in recent years were able to deal immediate picks for future choices. In 2007, for instance, the Patriots traded the 28th overall pick to the 49ers – which they used for tackle Joe Staley – for the 110th pick and a first-rounder the next year. In 2006, Sando wrote, the Jets traded the 35th pick to the Redskins for the 53rd and 189th choices, plus a second-rounder the next season.
“I think the 49ers would like to use some of those 14 choices to set up future drafts,” wrote Sando.
In assessing the 49ers’ roster depth and draft needs this week, Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group wrote that the team needs a backup quarterback, depth on the offensive and defensive lines, a tight end and cornerback and safety help. Certainly, the 49ers don’t need all 14 draft choices.
Recently, Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh said this draft is exciting because the team can make a long-term impact with the right moves during the three-day selection process.
“Our position is unique and real positive,” he said. “We have 14 picks in the upcoming draft. It’s an opportunity to really have an inflection point for our organization.
“So Trent Baalke has to be on his ‘A’ game. This could make you. You could be the next Bill Polian, the next Ozzie Newsome. It all hinges on this draft. So it’s exciting. Every one of those picks is going to be crucial.”
That includes the value of picks traded for choices in the future, when the 49ers will be able to continue to re-stock the roster.
Also, cautions Sando, the 49ers will have to find some willing trade partners. In order to pull off deals that bring value in the future, San Francisco will need to find teams interested in dealing.
“There are no guarantees another team will play along,” he wrote.