Going into Saturday, the third day of the NFL draft, it was believed the 49ers certainly would use one of their picks in the fourth through seventh rounds on a cornerback.
After losing two frontline corners to free agency – Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver – many analysts believed it was one of the team’s most acute positions of need.
Yet over their seven picks, the 49ers drafted, in order, a tight end, a running back, a wide receiver, a punter, two offensive linemen and another tight end.
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN’s longtime draft analyst, gave the 49ers a C+ for this draft, largely because it focused on players with projected talent (but with some question marks) while the team “didn’t do enough at a couple of need positions.”
“If there’s a theme here, it’s that you really need to believe in your ability to coach these guys up,” Kiper wrote in an Insider piece about the 49ers’ draft class. “The other thing I wonder about is the lack of a true inside linebacker or cornerback.”
Paul Gutierrez, who covers the 49ers for ESPN.com, also noted in his post-draft review that the Niners didn’t address the cornerback position.
“It must mean Baalke, who spent four picks on defensive backs last year, likes his current roster so much that he did not care to draft for need,” wrote Gutierrez.
If Baalke believes in the corners he has on his roster, it does make sense if you consider:
* Tramaine Brock, who began last season as the team’s No. 1 corner, should be again after missing much of last season to injury.
* Shareece Wright, signed to a one-year free-agent deal this spring, was a starter for the Chargers and should take the place of either Cox or Culliver.
* The 49ers were impressed with Dontae Johnson, a rookie in 2014 who picked up more and more playing time as the season progressed.
* The team also has corners Kenneth Acker and Keith Reaser ready to go after both draft picks were sidelined all last season because of injury. In addition, veteran Chis Cook should compete for playing time and No. 1 pick Jimmie Ward, a corner/safety hybrid, projects to be the No. 1 nickel corner.
Before the draft, Baalke talked about those players and signaled that he felt they give the 49ers plenty of choices and competition at the position.
“We feel good with where the roster is at from a positional standpoint,” Baalke said. “I felt like we addressed some needs in free agency that would allow us to go into the draft with the ability to draft value over need.”
That, it turned out, was exactly what he did.