In 2006 the 49ers traded their second round pick for an extra first round pick in 2007 which they used on left tackle Joe Staley. In 06, the 49ers were in the thick of rebuilding and just had two first round picks and knew they needed more top talent for years to come before they would be in a position to contend. Trading the pick made sense because it meant the 49ers could draft a starter at a key position the following season. This year is almost nothing like 2006 or 2007 for that matter, but they might have a similar draft strategy, even if it is for entirely different reasons.
The 49ers have a pretty full roster coming into this seasons draft. The team brought back all 11 starters on defense, and many other key contributors including quarterback Alex Smith, safety/special teams ace CJ Spillman, wide receiver/kick returner Ted Ginn Jr and backup defensive lineman Will Turkafu. They have done an equally impressive job of filling the holes on the team with cheap veterans. The 49ers added depth at QB with former Jim Harbaugh pupil Josh Johnson, depth at corner and return specialist with Perrish Cox. They replaced the one dimensional Blake Costanzo with runningback Rock Carwright who is equally skilled on special teams and can serve as a backup fullback. The most glaring need, wide receiver has also been addressed. After losing Joshua Morgan to the Redskins who vastly overpaid for his services. The Niners snagged Randy Moss and Mario Manningham for low risk deals that have already bolstered the teams WR group significantly. And finally in an effort to improve it’s short yardage and goal line game as well as provide insurance to running back Frank Gore the team signed former Giants pro bowler Brandon Jacobs to a 1 year deal.
In other words, the draft hasn’t even happened yet and the 49ers have taken care of business. The team still has some needs, but the draft will mostly serve as an opportunity to create competition and strengthen the depth of the team. The team will likely try to at least one or two WRs and need competition for Daniel Kilgore at the right guard spot. A dominate tight end like Coby Fleener would be a nice toy but isn’t necessary for SF. This is a year I can see the 49ers deciding to bail on the second round in one of two scenarios.
Scenario 1, Niners trade up in the first round: In this scenario the 49ers decide to go all in for a player they have targeted. It’s anyone’s guess who Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh’s draft crush is or will is or will be on Draft day. If they believe a WR, TE or OG has slipped far enough and a trade up for that player would be worth it don’t be surprised to see the 49ers go all in for their guy. Baalke has shown when he identifies someone he wants he’s not afraid to trade up. As evident in moving up to get OT Anthony Davis in the first round then QB Colin Kaepernick in successive drafts. The 49ers have gone all in this year with the pursuit of Peyton Manning and the signings of Randy Moss and Brandon Jacobs. They want to win a superbowl and do it now. It’s obvious by the 49ers moves this offseason they believe they are close to that goal. Moving up for a player they believe will improve their chances this season is highly likely in my opinion.
Scenario 2 Niners trade second round pick for first in next years draft: I expect the 49ers to go in one of two directions in the upcoming draft. One is they will trade up for a targeted player like I described above. The other is they will stick to their draft position and draft strictly best player available. If that’s the case, the 49ers could find themselves in a position where they do not value anyone on their board worthy enough of the pick to hold onto it. In that case, if another team wants to move up for a QB or something for 49ers are not interested in or in need of, the 49ers could trade out of the round all together this year. Next years draft is deep in RBs and two of the teams best players at the position are older players in Frank Gore and Brandon Jacobs. The only young player with promise, Kendall Hunter, is a small, change of pace back, not your typical every down runner. The team may find it wise to let go of a 2nd this year in order to set up a draft with two first round picks again. Especially in one so rich in RBs a position they will likely need to target in the near future.