Rick Osentoski/Associated Press
Are the 49ers headed in the wrong direction?
That might seem like a ludicrous question given their third consecutive NFC Championship Game appearance last year, but turnover on defense and some off-field drama have rocked the boat in San Francisco.
General manager Trent Baalke had to watch some of his talent go because of cap constraints, particularly on defense. He quickly put the 49ers back on track with a fantastic draft.
That did not happen in the first round as Baalke stood pat at No. 30 and took safety Jimmie Ward, though the 49ers made a bunch of trades later.
Ward has been an underrated prospect out of Northern Illinois, at least by media-coverage standards. Draft analysts know what the versatile safety brings to the table, though, and so did the 49ers.
He is great in coverage and capable of playing center field or pressing a slot receiver. He is a nice chess piece for head coach Jim Harbaugh, one that will mitigate the loss of Donte Whitner, Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers in the secondary.
The 49ers may have found their running back of the future in Ohio State's Carlos Hyde. The big back fell a bit due to character concerns, but he is easily the best choice that Baalke has made with an eye toward the future at the position, even with Marcus Lattimore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James in the fold.
Baalke followed that up with one fantastic pick after another, including center Marcus Martin out of USC, linebacker Chris Borland out of Wisconsin and receiver Bruce Ellington out of South Carolina.
He also continued his new annual tradition of selecting fantastic prospects who fell because of injury or character concerns by taking offensive lineman Brandon Thomas out of Clemson and defensive end Aaron Lynch out of USF.
Indeed, this was an excellent draft for Baalke. Again.