During the offseason San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke made his job a little easier for the NFL draft starting on Thursday. By taking care of most of the teams needs in free agency, Baalke could draft the best player available when the 49ers select at No. 30 in the first-round, and it would still be a value pick regardless of what position is selected.
With all 11 starters returning on defense and ten of the 11 starters on offense who finished last season on the roster returning, the 49ers have free reign with their first-round selection. With the addition of Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, Brandon Jacobs and the re-signing of Alex Smith, the offense returns well intact with added upgrades. Former 49ers right guard Adam Snyder, who signed with Arizona, is the only starter not returning.
This leaves the 49ers with a need at right guard which is the position I think they should go after in the first-round. Currently, the only options at the position are Alex Boone and Daniel Kilgore who have zero starts between them. However, my prediction in the first-round for the 49ers is they will not only draft a guard, but will trade up into the top-20 of the draft to do so.
Conventional wisdom says if a team is stacked with solid starters on both sides of the football and has only one or two needs on the roster, the team should trade down instead of up in the draft. But for the 49ers to have a solid starter at right guard for the upcoming season, the best option is the draft at this point. I don’t see Boone or Kilgore being capable starters in protecting Alex Smith or opening up running lanes for Frank Gore. There is no way the 49ers find a starting right guard at pick No. 30 for the up coming season.
Baalke has a great track record of selecting first-round players who contributed successfully to the 49ers in their rookie season. Last year Baalke went with Aldon Smith at the 7th pick and he contributed with 14 sacks, tying a rookie record. In 2010, the 49ers had two first-round picks and selected right tackle Anthony Davis, at pick No. 11, and left guard Mike Iupati, at pick No. 17. Both offensive linemen started every game as rookies.
The best guard available in the draft is David DeCastro from Stanford. DeCastro will most likely be selected somewhere between the 10th and 20th picks in the draft. Now, you would think the 49ers would have to sell the farm in order to move up into the top-20 but recent history shows the 49ers would not have to give up a lot to trade up. The last team to have the 30th pick in the draft and trade up into the top-20 was the Eagles in 2003. The Eagles traded their 30th and 62nd draft picks with the Charges in exchange for their 15th pick. The 49ers have 61st overall pick (second-round) in this year’s draft. This would mean the 49ers would not pick for 77 selections in between their first draft pick (15th) and their second draft pick (92nd, third-round). But it would be worth it to get a bona fide guard who played for Jim Harbaugh in his last year coaching at Stanford. DeCastro is the best guard in the draft because he was a starter for three years in college and was the featured run blocker opening up lanes for the Cardinal running game.
There is no guarantee DeCastro will still be available at the 15th pick and the 49ers might have to give up more than just their first- and second-round draft picks to land inside the top-20 of the draft. But with right guard being the only true need for the 49ers and their biggest hole on the offensive line, it would be well worth the risk and price.
You always try to go through the offseason and take care of as many of the needs as possible. That’s part of free agency, addressing needs. As your team gets deeper, you hope to have fewer needs, which should allow you to concentrate on the best-player-available formula. (Trent Baalke)
Recent Niner Noise draft coverage: 2012 NFL Draft: Who Will the 49ers Pick? Nobody Has a Clue