Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Two of San Francisco’s moves raised eyebrows, for sure.
The issue is that most people were gauging what these players were with their former teams, rather than projecting what they will be in the Bay Area. Their roles will be drastically different—almost non-visible—and they will have an opportunity to start fresh with one of the best collection of coaches in the NFL.
It takes forward thinking and projection to appreciate these moves rather than ridicule them.
So, while people poked fun at the idea of a trade for a notoriously bad quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the 49ers acquired a player who is three years removed from being selected No. 10 overall. And when he first joined Mizzou, Gabbert was a 5-star recruit, according to Rivals.com.
Coach Harbaugh has something to work with here. And again, Gabbert is going to be a backup to Colin Kaepernick, who was selected 26 slots after Gabbert in the 2011 NFL draft.
There was the notion that the 49ers could draft a rookie quarterback late, but they tried that in 2013 and just weren’t comfortable. South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels, a seventh-rounder, performed as well as any late-round rookie QB could have expected to, but it still wasn’t enough.
Colt McCoy, while worse and a proven slop behind center, got the nod as the No. 2 because of his experience. That’s what it came down to.
So the 49ers get the experience from Gabbert, who's raw and untrained enough for Harbaugh to work his magic on. Then, they can possibly flip him for a draft pick at a later date. It’s not as crazy as it seems.
Moving on down the list, few positions benefit more from having a callus than offensive lineman.
Jonathan Martin was involved in a scandal in his last year with the Miami Dolphins, which removed him from football and dinged his value. He’ll receive all sorts of public criticism, but he has a chance to start fresh with the coach he should have been playing with all along.
He is also a starting tackle who's coming in to be a sixth man on the offensive line.
Gabbert and Martin are both young players who were once highly regarded and will now have an opportunity to hit the restart button in San Francisco. At the same time, they fill positions of need at good value, so the 49ers don’t have to worry about them in the draft.
These were two smart moves that few teams could pull off.