San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke has received a lot of flak over the last week for his work, or lack thereof, in free agency.
While many teams in the NFC West improve, the perception is that Baalke is playing it safe.
Fear not folks, the former executive of the year knows exactly what he's doing. Complacency shouldn't be confused with patience.
Yes, replacing Dashon Goldson and the combination of Ricky Jean-Francois/Isaac Sopoaga will be tough.
I think not.
All three guys, while successful in San Fran, were bound to get overpaid by teams with extreme needs at those positions. The Philadelphia Eagles are switching to a 3-4 defense and have a need at nose tackle. The Indianapolis Colts are in year two of their transition away from the Tampa-2 defense.
The point? Winning in free agency isn't the end all, be all.
Successful teams build through the draft, and then use other avenues, such as free agency and trades, to complement their base set of talent.
Luckily for the 49ers, they can stomach letting Goldson and few others walk away. As we all know by now, the 49ers will have a boatload of picks in the upcoming draft to get big players.
With the Anquan Boldin trade, it leaves the 49ers with 14 selections in 2012 draft, which is tops among the NFL.
This is with compensatory selections.
The 49ers should have plenty of ammunition to make a trade up in the draft. If I had a say, the Niners should target the safety out of the University of Texas: Kenny Vaccaro.
Here are a few reasons to consider Vaccaro in the draft.
Vaccaro is listed at 6'0'', 214 pounds. At free safety, he has the ideal height and weight standards GMs are looking for.
His combine 40 (4.63 sec) may have left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, but many expect him to best that time at the UT pro day.
I expected the Vaccaro to run a sub 4.5 or in the high 4.4's; however, the 40 isn't a great indicator for NFL success. Vaccaro looks much faster on tape, which should help his cause if he flubs again at his pro day.
Additionally, Vaccaro has excellent arm length (32 3/4) and hand size (10 inches) for an NFL safety.
In todays NFL, you need DBs who can cover and hit. Vaccaro is one of the few who can do both at a high level.
Can he lay wood like Dashon Goldson? No.
But I doubt anyone could match Goldson's hit ability, whether in college or the pro's.
However, Vaccaro is still a fine tackler and does enough to make his presence known.
More than anything, Vaccaro will have GMs salivating because of his coverage ability. He can play center field, while also having the adaptability to cover tight ends and the slot position.
Vaccaro is also a very aggressive run defender, and should be an instant plug-starter alongside Donte Whitner. His aggressiveness playing the run should remind many of Goldson's high flying antics.
The 49ers have an obvious need at safety, despite Baalke's signing of Craig Dahl. I'm still skeptical Dahl will open as the starter alongside Whitner, but if so, the Niners will need depth behind the veteran.
LSU isn't the only top-notch school known for sending DBs to the pro's. UT has a solid history of successful DBs in the NFL (namely Pro Bowl safety, Earl Thomas).
Vaccaro doesn't have the ball skills that Earl Thomas possessed coming out of UT. However, I saw enough improvement out of Vaccaro during his college career to believe he can get better in this area.
Vaccaro is likely slated to go in the mid-20s, and with the Niners selecting at 31, Baalke would have to make quite a leap.
Is it impossible? Nope, but it will be tough.
The Niners have the necessary pieces to move up, but it will be up to Baalke and the rest of the 49ers brass to decide if Vaccaro is worth the risk.
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