Lessons Learned from San Francisco 49ers', Trent Baalke's 2012 Draft Strategy

Sigmund Bloom@SigmundBloomNFL Draft Lead WriterJuly 26, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Trent Baalke of the San Francisco 49ers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers were oh-so-close to getting to the Super Bowl and executing an astounding turnaround under first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh. With a dominant defense returning all 11 starters, general manager Trent Baalke had the luxury of focusing his picks on players who could get the 49ers over the top in the next one or two years. What would his strategy be when it came time to exercise the team's picks?

Baalke is taking the shotgun approach to fixing the offense's lack of punch at wide receiver

After adding Randy Moss and Mario Manningham in free agency, the 49ers seemed set as far as new additions to the wide receiver corps to help out Alex Smith in the passing game. So what did they do? They drafted a smaller, speedy wide receiver in the first round along with star running back LaMichael James.

AJ Jenkins could end up being a great selection, although he has had the spring of a first-round bust. James has barely practiced with the team because of Oregon's late-finishing school year. The draft pick could have been used to patch bigger holes on the O-line, or given the team something they lacked on offense, like a big receiver. 

The 49ers might have delayed gratification too much

Baalke traded down three times in the late third and early fourth round, nabbing a 2013 third, fifth and sixth-round pick in the process. While that looks good on paper, the 49ers' biggest problem last year on offense was arguably right guard, and it sounds like the team had Baltimore Ravens' fourth-round pick Gino Gradkowski lined up to address the problem. 

Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reported back in May that Baalke had a "noticeable reaction" when Gradkowski went off of the board. It seems like Baalke then threw his hands in the air and decided to trade down twice because no one appealed to him. Then he got nervous and felt the need to trade back up to draft Joe Looney, a solid but injured guard prospect.

If Gradkowski hits for the Ravens, Baalke would be willing to give back the extra picks and more for him in a trade, but he'll never get the chance.


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