Niners' Baalke Has Eyes on First Pick, but Isn't Saying Who

Last year, 49ers GM got his man at No. 7, Aldon Smith, who had a great rookie season for San Francisco

By Doug Williams
|  Thursday, Apr 19, 2012  |  Updated 8:09 AM PDT
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49ers Keep 1st-Pick Intentions Hushed

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Aldon Smith (right) wasn't projected as a top-10 pick last year, yet was taken No. 7 by the Niners.

We can’t see the San Francisco 49ers’ draft board. It’s somewhere behind closed doors in the Niners’ Santa Clara headquarters, away from the prying eyes of media and fans.

But if we could see it, we’d see about 150 names listed, says San Francisco General Manager Trent Baalke.

With selections in every round of the draft – including the 30th overall in the first round – the 49ers have been doing their homework and are ready to pounce when their opportunities come around.

Baalke said the team’s draft board is 90 percent set.

On Wednesday, when Baalke met with Bay Area media to talk about the April 26 selection process, he sounded confident the team would come up with an impact player at the end of the first round. In fact, he told reporters he has a specific player in mind – but played coy, declining to drop hints on who he might be.

“We have one (player) we feel real good about,” Baalke told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. “If we’re able to move up or not move up, we’ve got to be prepared to make a pick at 30. There is one in particular we feel will be there, and if he’s there we’ll make the pick.”

Since becoming the 49ers’ GM, Baalke’s instincts – in the draft, free agency and in selecting a head coach in Jim Harbaugh – have been like gold.

Last year, in selecting No. 7 overall, Baalke had his eyes on Aldon Smith of Missouri, the defensive end/linebacker who was not projected to be a top-10 pick, yet had 14 sacks in 2011 and was runner-up for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

If Baalke’s targeted player is anywhere close to Smith in talent, the 49ers will have another gem.

Harbaugh, however, told reporters that Baalke isn’t lasered in on just one option at No. 30. He can adapt, improvise and overcome as opportunities arise. If the 49ers move up in the first round, trade down or stay put – but see their prime target taken – Harbaugh is confident Baalke will get a player he’s excited about.

“I think Trent’s trying to be dramatic with you guys (the media),” Harbaugh told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Trying to build the drama. There’s several … there’s a lot of good guys, put it that way. There are a lot of good guys that we’d love to have that (No. 30) pick.”

When Baalke was asked about the team’s interest in Stanford tight end Coby Fleener – who met with the 49ers Wednesday and is projected as a low first-round pick – Baalke sidestepped.

He also wouldn’t say if the 49ers have a strategy to pick for need (at right guard or receiver, for instance) or for best player available.

Baalke has guys on his board, but we won’t find out who they are until the draft begins a week from today.

“I’m not going to talk about a particular player,” he said.

 

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