What the heck will the San Francisco 49ers do with 14 draft picks? I anticipate Trent Baalke managing this year’s draft a lot like last year’s draft. Look for moves that generate draft picks in 2014 and keeps the team’s expenses down. On the flip side, I also anticipate moves that bundle picks, or picks and a player, to secure a higher draft pick for a targeted player or an existing NFL starter.
So what do they need? In order of importance:
Defensive line: It’s been widely discussed, the 49ers don’t rotate much. Somebody to spell McDonald and J. Smith during games that the 49ers are in firm control of would be amazing. There is no reason J. Smith should be in the 4th quarter against the Cardinals, Titans, and other lesser teams on next year’s docket. Save the Cowboy for the playoffs! Also in need is a Nose Tackle, and the team could draft one early every year and I wouldn’t be upset. Plus, they come cheap and are rarely outright busts.
Center: Jonathan Goodwin has a few years left under team control, at which point he’ll be well over 35. Drafting a well regarded center this year and letting him learn under Goodwin would be an excellent use of this year’s resources. The pick doesn’t need to play right away, and like defensive linemen he won’t cost much and won’t be an outright bust.
Safety: Both Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson are great players, and fun to watch. Goldson will likely get a franchise tag or a long-term deal this year while Whitner is under team control for one more season. Both play a risky, hard-hitting style of safety, and neither have a proven back-up. Should either get hurt, or eventually leave the team, a solid pick in this year’s draft can help protect against those scenarios.
Wide Receiver: With Randy Moss gone, the team is a little thin here. While there is plenty of talent, the current crop of WRs all bring a similar style to the position. Kyle Williams is speedy quick but much too short to be a true deep threat. Mario Manningham brings a well-rounded skill set but is neither big enough nor fast enough to be a true deep threat. Michael Crabtree is an excellent route runner, has tremendous hands, and is physical, but, you guessed it, isn’t a true deep threat. A.J. Jenkins couldn’t get on the field last year and his competition was Ted Ginn. The 49ers need a WR over 6”3’ who can run. Given their current state, this can be a project player.
Kicker: David Ackers fell off a cliff last year. Given how the Niners like to (used to?) play, a strong legged PK isn’t a bad idea. The Raiders drafted SeaBass early, and I wouldn’t mind seeing something similar from the Niners.
2014: Get more picks, pick late rounders that could blossom, and always, always, always, add depth on the lines.