There is no question that GM Trent Baalke is among the very best as a talent evaluator. His poker face attitude combined with a win now mentality, is what separates him from past San Francisco 49ers General Managers such as Terry Donahue and Scot McCloughan. In addition, he has been a vital piece in bringing back the 49ers tradition of Super Bowl or bust, a change that seemed to transcend overnight. So how is Baalke such a great talent evaluator? For one, he entrusts his scouting department to find the best players and rank them accordingly on their big board. That step is easier said than done, as many regional scouts have a difference of opinions regarding numerous prospects. However, Baalke has developed a strategy over the past few years in categorizing certain players from the rest of the pack.
One telling sign, that Baalke covets a player is based on pre-draft visits. If a player makes a trip to Santa Clara, you can bet he has a “gold helmet” next to his name on the big board. A “gold helmet” represents a player that they are very high on. Last year, it was surprisingly WR A.J. Jenkins. The former first-round pick was brought in for a pre-draft visit, and the 49ers became enamored with his potential. It became apparent the 49ers were high on Jenkins as only WR Kendall Wright was drafted before him, as the only other wide receiver brought in for a pre-draft visit.
If the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior than the 49ers may be high on FS Jonathan Cyprien (FIU), FS Duke Williams (Nevada), NT John Jenkins (Georgia) and TE Travis Kelce (Cincinnati). All of those players were brought in for pre-draft visits. And if I had to take a guess, I believe they will target Williams in the first-round although many seem to have Cyprien ranked higher.
Remember the 49ers drafted QB Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), meaning the scouting department is high on players from that school. Also, Williams is more suited for Vic Vangio’s system as he is a ferocious hitter. His bone crushing hits and ballhawking skills are similar to FS Dashon Goldson’s coming out of college. Let’s make no mistake, he is by no means a Goldson, but coming out as college prospects they do have a similar skill-set.
Another prospect that was brought in for a pre-draft visit was NT John Jenkins. This is a top three nose tackle that is an ideal run stuffer on first and second downs. He does not possess the lateral quickness to shed blockers, but he is physically strong at the point of attack, a staple for a nose tackle.
Whether the 49ers draft a defensive back, defensive lineman, or tight end, you can be sure that Baalke did his due diligence as they have came in for a pre-draft visit.