San Francisco 49ers: The Trade That Keeps on Giving

Vincent Frank@VincentFrankNFLCorrespondent IJanuary 27, 2013

Over the next week, we are going to be inundated with praise for the job Jim Harbaugh has done since he took over as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers just over two calendar years ago. 

While Harbaugh deserves praise for the job he has done on the sidelines, general manager Trent Baalke is responsible for putting together this Super Bowl roster. Baalke made a trade in the middle of the 2010 NFL draft that now has San Francisco in position to win its sixth Lombardi Trophy. 

San Francisco traded back just 13 spots in the third round of the 2010 draft. That deal enabled the San Diego Chargers to select linebacker Donald Butler out of Washington with the 79th overall pick.

About an hour later, San Francisco picked up another linebacker, NaVorro Bowman from Penn State. In addition, the 49ers acquired a sixth-round pick (Anthony Dixon) later in the draft as well as a fourth-rounder the next year.

Needless to say, this would have been a coup for the 49ers even without that additional pick the following season.

Bowman has made two consecutive All-Pro teams and is among the most talented linebackers in the league. He has teamed up with Patrick Willis to form the best linebacker tandem in recent NFL history. 

It's what San Francisco did with that additional fourth-round pick that has this team on the verge of winning the Super Bowl. 

In 2011, Harbaugh was looking for his franchise signal-caller in the draft. The "problem" was that San Francisco passed up on the likes of Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder in lieu of Aldon Smith with the No. 7 overall pick that season. 

This caused a tremendous amount of questions among fans and the media alike. After all, Smith wasn't considered a top-10 talent leading up to the draft. 

Moreover, many questioned what the 49ers would do at quarterback. Remember, Alex Smith was still considered a "bust" by the mainstream media. 

Once the Cincinnati Bengals selected Andy Dalton with the 35th overall pick, San Francisco had to move up in order to find a quarterback.

Baalke found a trade partner in the form of John Elway and the Denver Broncos, who sent the 36th pick to the 49ers in exchange for the 45th pick along with a fourth- and fifth-rounder. 

By virtue of its trade with San Diego the previous season, San Francisco was able to ship its original fourth-round pick to the Broncos in order to trade up and acquire Colin Kaepernick. 

With the fourth-rounder they acquired from San Diego, the 49ers picked up Kendall Hunter from Oklahoma State. 

Pure conjecture here, but I find it hard to believe that the 49ers would have parted with both a fourth- and fifth-rounder in order to move up 10 spots in the second round if they had not acquired that pick from San Diego in the first place.

We already know that Baalke values his draft picks and would have most likely rolled the dice on Kaepernick falling to 45. 

These are the types of decisions and trades that come to define the success and/or failure of a franchise. For A.J. Smith in San Diego, it was just another representation of his inability to make the right decision at the right time.

While Butler has been a decent player in his last two seasons with the Chargers (after missing all of 2010), he is nowhere near the level of Bowman.

Meanwhile, Baalke was able to come away with a bounty here: Kaepernick, Bowman, Dixon and Hunter. That is simply amazing. 

Denver ended up selecting Rahim Moore with the pick it traded to the 49ers for Kaepernick. We all know how great that turned out for the Broncos in the playoffs. 

Over the course of the next week, you will hear praise thrown in the direction of certain members of the 49ers organization. Take a step back and realize that Baalke is one of the primary reasons they are in this situation.

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