The 49ers have so many needs – offensive line, wide receiver, quarterback, defensive line, linebacker and in the secondary – that it’s hard to predict which direction general manager Trent Baalke will go with his first-round pick Thursday night.
But after so much speculation for so many weeks and months, here are a few predictions:
1 – Baalke will have the urge to trade down in the draft to pad the 12 picks he already has for the seven-round selection process, but he won’t. He’ll stay with the No. 7 choice overall and select one of two players, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack (if he’s still available) or Oregon defensive lineman DeForest Buckner. Jack may be the most talented defensive player in the draft, yet his stock has fallen in recent weeks because of speculation that the cartilage problem in his knee is, as one source recently told a reporter, a “time bomb.” If Jack slides to seven, Baalke will take him. He's a dynamic, energetic playmaker who could put a charge into the defense. If Jack is gone, he’ll go after Buckner, a 6-foot-7, 291-pounder who could team with former Oregon teammate Arik Armstead to give the 49ers a duo of dynamic Ducks at defensive end in the 3-4 base defense.
2 – In the second or third round, the 49ers will select a quarterback for the future, possibly Connor Cook of Michigan State if Cook is still on the board.
3 – Quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be traded at some point Thursday to the Denver Broncos to clear the decks for holdover Blaine Gabbert to be the No. 1 QB going into this season, with a rookie – Cook? Dak Prescott of Mississippi State? – watching and learning until he can take over for Gabbert. The 49ers can’t continue this offseason with the Kaepernick issue hanging over their heads. At this point, because Kaepernick has declined to say he’s eager to stick around and run Chip Kelly’s spread offense, it’s time for Baalke to send Kaepernick elsewhere.
The first round of the NFL draft will be televised by ESPN and the NFL Network Thursday beginning at 5 p.m. Rounds 2-3 will be televised Friday starting at 4 p.m., with Rounds 4-7 on Saturday starting at 9 a.m.