Back in January, when 49ers CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke introduced Jim Tomsula as the team’s new head coach, all three talked about a new era for the franchise.
Referring to several off-the-field incidents that plagued the 49ers in recent seasons, Tomsula even talked about “winning with class” and how important it would be for 49ers players to conduct themselves in a positive way.
In the weeks before Tomsula was announced as Jim Harbaugh’s successor, York, too, talked about the importance of bringing in players with high-quality character.
“Absolutely,” he said. “And there are guys that they might not be 100 percent choirboy, perfect quality players. And the NFL is made up of teams that have mixtures of personalities. You need to find a way to get to the guys that are potentially on the edge. That have the ability to really be good guys. … Maybe they didn’t have the greatest background, they didn’t have the greatest upbringing, but that doesn’t mean that they’re bad people.”
Then, he said, it would be up to the coaching staff to keep them, “On the side of the road that fits with our core values.”
It’s likely that the 49ers will be tested along those lines in this 2015 draft.
Often, extremely talented players with off-field issues drop down the draft board and become great-value picks.
One such player may be former Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.
NFL analyst Bucky Brooks wrote this week that Green-Beckham – “arguably the most talented receiver in this class – could be available in the middle to low end of the first round this season because of off-field issues. And, he listed the 49ers, who have the 15th selection, as a possible landing spot for him, along with the Chiefs and Colts.
The Niners are seeking a playmaking wide receiver who can add some life to a passing attack that took a step backward in 2014. It’s been argued that quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s development has been hampered by the lack of a go-to downfield receiver.
Beckham, who is 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds, could be that receiver. Brooks says he “has all the tools” of a No. 1 wideout.
“He is big and athletic, and he has speed, quickness and impressive ball skills,” Brooks wrote. “He effortlessly snatches the ball out of the air and routinely wins 50-50 balls with defenders.”
Also, says Brooks, Green-Beckham is elusive after the catch.
But, Brooks noted, Green-Beckham likely won’t be taken at the top of Round 1, and might even drop into Round 2 “due to concerns about his character and past troublesome behavior.” Brooks cited “two marijuana-related arrests and an alleged assault” that led to his transfer from Missouri to Oklahoma. He never played for the Sooners, however, and decided to turn pro in time for this year’s draft.
Brooks said the incidents plus “questions of a suspect work ethic” come along with the eye-popping talent he’d bring to a team.
If the 49ers were to take him, wrote Brooks, “He could become the focal point of San Francisco’s revamped offense.”
The question is, if Green-Beckham is available when the Niners pick, will they see the reward as higher than the risk?