The first thing that popped into my mind when I was covering the 2012 NFL draft for Bleacher Report was just how much the San Francisco 49ers looked like the New England Patriots when they made a bevy of different deals to acquire multiple picks for this year's draft.
This was my breakdown of San Francisco's dealing during the draft last April.
Let me break this down for you because it can get confusing rather quickly. In the end, after four different trades, this is what the 49ers acquired and gave up with the myriad of trades they conducted. Trent Baalke and Co. ceded their third-round pick (91) to the Indianapolis Colts.
After all was said and done San Francisco acquired a sixth-round pick (Trenton Robinson) as well as a third, fifth and sixth round pick in the 2013 NFL draft. For a team without many needs this made a great deal of sense. They pretty much became Patriots' west with these deals.
As you can see above, San Francisco picked up three additional picks in the 2013 NFL draft in the three days of the annual event last year.
My comparison to New England was pretty simple. Bill Belichick and company have made it their M.O. to go out and acquire additional future picks by moving up and down the draft each season. This is one of the primary reasons that the Patriots have been in championship contention on a consistent basis since 2001.
You can add another comparison to the growing lists of commonalities between these two franchises after San Francisco sent backup quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs this week in a reported deal (h/t San Francisco Chronicle) that brings the Chiefs a second-round pick (34th overall) in April and either a second- or third-rounder in 2014, depending on how the Chiefs perform next season.
That is a mighty fine bounty for Baalke, especially considering that Smith drew little to no interest on the open market last offseason. It also comes nearly two years after San Francisco probably could have only released Smith outright prior to the 2011 season.
While I will write an article that focuses on Smith's contribution to the franchise of San Francisco as well as his former home city, today's article is solely intended to look at how the 49ers have made it pretty obvious that they're going to be in contention for the long haul.
If this trade is made official once the new league year begins in about two weeks, San Francisco will have a total of 15 picks in this year's draft, after taking into account the three reported compensatory selections (h/t CSN Bay Area) that it will likely pick up next month.
These 15 picks are, by far, the most of any team in the entire NFL. In an interesting twist of fate, New England possesses just five picks in the upcoming draft after trading up twice in the first round of the 2011 draft.
San Francisco now appears ready to take over as the one team that is fully prepared to make the moves necessary to contend on a yearly basis.
No one in their right mind should believe that the 49ers are going to exhaust all 15 picks themselves. After all, they're coming off a Super Bowl appearance and they aren't ready to have their roster filled up with that many rookies. Instead, Baalke and Co. will go out there and look to make trades for veterans that will help improve the team, both in the short term and down the road.
With five selections in the first 94 picks, the 49ers are in an enviable position here. They could easily trade away either their own second-round pick or a combination of third-rounders for better picks in 2014, as we have seen the team do this in the past.
For instance, back in 2009, San Francisco traded away its second- and fourth-round picks to the Carolina Panthers for their first-rounder in 2010.
This is how the deal worked out for both sides:
|Mike Iupati, Guard (2010)||Everette Brown, Linebacker (2009)|
|Mike Goodson, Running Back (2009)|
It doesn't take a genius to come to the conclusion that San Francisco absolutely robbed Carolina in this deal, and don't be surprised if this same thing happens again in April.
A multitude of teams will value the 34th overall selection at the top of the second round. For example, franchises that are still in need of a quarterback but aren't prepared to spend a first-round on that position in 2013 would be ideal trade partners.
San Francisco could realistically turn that second-round pick into a fist-rounder in 2014 if it adds just a piece or two later in the draft.
In addition, a recent report by Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports suggests that the 49ers are one of a handful of teams interested in Darrelle Revis, who is still one of the top three cornerbacks in the entire National Football League. While I wouldn't advocate them giving up a valuable 34th overall pick in exchange for a veteran defensive back coming off a serious knee injury, the 49ers have plenty of other trade chips to offer the New York Jets.
Another player, who would cost less in terms of both money and picks, is wide receiver Percy Harvin of the Minnesota Vikings.
In drawing a comparison to the Patriots once again, Belichick has never shied away from picking up enigmatic veterans whose value just wasn't as ripe as their on field performance would suggest. For example, Chad Johnson and Deion Branch, among others, come to mind.
What would stop San Francisco from picking up one of these two important pieces at need positions? Well, the obvious counterargument is that it doesn't have a whole heck of a lot to work with under the cap, especially with Isaac Sopoaga, Ricky Jean-Francois and Dashon Goldson set to become free agency.
On the surface, that argument seems to hold a little bit of ground.
Grade the Alex Smith trade from 49ers perspective
Well, that's just on the surface.
By virtue of its 15 picks in the 2013 NFL draft, San Francisco is absolutely stacked when it comes to draft picks. It can easily replace those veterans with cheaper and younger options, while upgrading at positions that represent more of a need right now.
Just three years removed from being the butt of jokes around the National Football League, San Francisco sits atop the mountain and is in no way ready to give up its position among the best teams in the league anytime in the near future.
The most recent example of this is yesterday's deal that sent Smith to Kansas City for two valuable picks. Don't be surprised if this trade has a wide-ranging impact for the 49ers, even following their first game in Santa Clara. Come two years from now, we might have to play a game of "connect the dots" as it relates to this trade after San Francisco turns it into multiple picks spanning a longer period than just two years.
This is the pure genius of Trent Baalke.