In 2013, Baalke took several players that were not expected to play much, if at all, due to injury. Those included Tank Carradine, Marcus Lattimore and Quinton Dial.
Carradine, Lattimore and Dial will add to the depth of the 2014 team, so it is imperative that Baalke and the 49ers acquire some impact players. In the past two drafts, only Eric Reid looks like an impact player at this point. Baalke must do better this year.
The 49ers' window of opportunity with their current group is rapidly closing and there will be several question marks about the roster beyond the 2014 season.
Frank Gore, Justin Smith and Ray McDonald are getting older and will have big salary-cap numbers.
In addition, the contracts of Michael Crabtree, Colin Kaepernick, Aldon Smith and Mike Iupati are all expiring after the 2014 season. It will be virtually impossible for Baalke and the 49ers to keep them all. There simply will not be enough money for everyone.
Other veterans such as Patrick Willis, Joe Staley and Ahmad Brooks are still very good players, but are in a position of maintaining their skill level as opposed to having significant upside for improvement.
The 2014 draft is, therefore, extremely important to the future success of the 49ers.
Quality young players help to keep your team strong and your salary cap at a manageable level. The 49ers are just now starting to feel the real impact of the abysmal 2012 draft.
With 11 selections this year, look for Baalke to be very active in making deals during the course of the draft. In previous articles, I specifically called for Baalke to trade up and get an impact-caliber cornerback. It is still my belief that the 49ers should take this approach.
Although this report will provide selections in the first five rounds, it is quite likely that many of the selections will be moving all over the board due to trades.
However, if the 49ers were to stand pat and make all of their selections where they fall, let's take a closer look at who the 49ers should take with each of those picks in the first five rounds.