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The same feeling holds for the running back position. Here’s why mock drafts seem to be so futile in March and early April:
Let’s say by Round 3 that the Niners have secured two players who they feel very confident will come in and challenge for a spot on the roster and make the team better, so the draft sheets shift to the players closer to the top 100 rather than the top 10.
In the Niner offense, a player like LaMichael James of Oregon could come in and provide a unique spark that some would say has a first-round impact on the team.
But compared to other needs, such as receiver or right guard, James would rank further down the list. Thus for the Niners, James would be an absolute steal as a third-round pick, perhaps even more helpful than last year’s fourth-round selection of Kendall Hunter.
Most likely, however, some other team will see James as late first-round or solid second-round worth to the team, and he’ll be long gone by the time the Niners make their decision.
It’s up to Baalke and the rest of the staff to decide how much to value a player’s impact on this particular team. James on the Niners could be that final, extra force that lifts the offense into the elite level required to win a Super Bowl. Is he worth trading up for several draft choices?
They 49ers may not need a running back until Round 3, but James could be the difference. Or, if not him, then what are the chances that a Robert Turbin of Utah State falls to the Niners? If they wait for Turbin and James helps a team like the New York Giants return to the Super Bowl, does that mean Baalke failed his organization?
Now you know what general managers think about when they suddenly wake up at 4:00 a.m.