49ers bring excitement back to their first round experience, trade up for falling star(?)

Imagine Trent Baalke — the Baalke comparisons will stop soon, I swear — making a deal with the Seattle Seahawks. I know, it’s like imaging Baalke at a Karaoke bar singing nothing but Mariah Carey songs, but bear with me.

He hasn’t just made a deal with the Seahawks, but it’s for a player for whom many 49ers fans were clamoring.

The obvious counterpoint would go something like “Hey, didn’t Baalke draft a Pac-12 defensive lineman early, then trade back into the first round a year ago?” Yes, he did do that. But everyone knew the 49ers were probably going to take Buckner last year, and they traded back into the first round to get a guard that not many people (outside of Santa Clara) thought was a first round talent.

This time the 49ers got their Pac-12 d-lineman and traded back into the first round to get a guy they never went after before, or at least recently: the uber-talented guy who was falling due to “red flags.” And in doing so, I would imagine their draft day grades from the so-called experts will be really, really high. The so-calleds love high-value trades, and they love pouncing on high-risk talent 10-25 picks after they all thought the guy would go a month or two earlier.

It’s a new era for the 49ers, but the most fun part for fans looking for a logical reason to be optimistic is that tonight brought so many beloved names back, if only for a little while.

Solomon Thomas (full story on him here), the team’s first pick of the night at No. 3, has been compared to Justin Smith. Well, by one site I saw, anyway. There were several comps to Michael Bennett, and the 49ers would definitely take that without complaint.

With a surplus of third and fourth round picks, a trade from No. 34 overall (second pick of the second round) seemed almost probable. Would they get a quarterback like DeShone Kizer, or would they get the Alabama linebacker who had a, how do I put this … tumultuous experience at the NFL combine?

You already know which way they went. They took one look at the worst run defenses of all-time and decided that area needed to improve immediately.

Check out what Jeff’s site, Pro Football Focus, said about this dude before the 49ers drafted him.

Player Comparison: Patrick Willis, LB, 49ers (2007–2014 seasons)

High praise, but it’s a reflection on Foster’s ability to do everything. He has the top-end athleticism that Willis had, which allows him to play sideline-to-sideline and cover running backs, tight ends and slot receivers, as well as the strength and physicality needed to consistently take on and beat blocks on inside runs.

Ho ho ho! And that’s not all …

Sheesh. That may be laying it on a little too thick, but they definitely know their audience.

I’ve also seen comparisons to Bobby Wagner, which goes along with Robert Saleh becoming the DC and the 49ers generally looking to replicate what the Seahawks do on defense, only without a tall, mouthy corner who blocked me on Twitter.

Foster has been called a “beast” more often than anyone can count, and he was seen on TV playing in the biggest games nearly every Saturday.

Foster has been called a “beast” more often than we can count, and he was seen on TV playing in the biggest games nearly every Saturday.

So how did the 49ers swoop him up in the penultimate pick of the first round?

Via Yahoo:

Every year, a player or two falls in the first round due to off-field news. Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley fell a bit too, due to a rape allegation and an open investigation into it. Foster’s troubles weren’t as serious as that, but he was sent home from the combine for a verbal altercation with a hospital employee, then news broke that he failed a drug test at the combine due to a diluted sample. Add in a slow recovery from a rotator cuff surgery, and that was the third strike for many teams.

The main “strike” here has to be medical in nature, right? Conley may have passed a polygraph test leading up to the draft, but a recent sexual assault charge is quite a bit more serious than an altercation with a hospital employee, or the standard dope smoker’s misguided attempt to pass a test they know they’ll fail.

Conley went No. 24 to the Raiders.

At least Foster didn’t have pull an Onterrio Smith. Plus it’s pretty danged hard to get popped for too much THC in your bloodstream once you reach the NFL. So as long as that was Foster’s “illegal” intoxicant of choice, the 49ers couldn’t care less as long as he doesn’t do something stupid, like try to sneak a bag of weed onto a commercial flight or get so stoned before a game that he forgets to stand for the anthem.

And here’s what said after the 49ers drafted NaVorro Bowman, who’s been squeaky clean since entering the league:

Pick Analysis: The 49ers continue to add good players with the pick of Navorro Bowman. Although he fell down draft boards due to some off-field concerns, his outstanding talent and instincts give him a chance to emerge as an impact player in San Francisco under Mike Singletary’s tutelage.

No, the NFL is probably a little more worried about the rotator cuff and the fact that he had problems with “stingers” in college than his temper or inability to pass a combine drug test. The surgery is definitely a concern, but this isn’t a first round offensive lineman who dropped multiple rounds due to an ACL tear right before the draft, or a running back whose knee was utterly destroyed in college. Linebackers need to be able to wrap up, but every football player needs to be able to run.

In case you can’t tell, things are topsy-turvy around here. I’m wildly optimistic about the 49ers for the first time since Jan. 2014, when Jim Harbaugh looked me in the eyes after they lost to Seattle in the NFC Championship Game and told me that three straight seasons ending with heartbreaking playoff losses wouldn’t be too much to overcome.

OK, maybe not “wildly” optimistic, because that sounds like I’m expecting a .500 season or better. And taking Foster is definitely a gamble, otherwise someone would’ve drafted him before No. 31. Either way, I’m pleasantly surprised by today’s events because the 49ers are back in the entertainment industry, and whenever this team has been entertaining (in my lifetime, anyway), they’ve won. Like, a lot.

They went with a pretty safe pick at No. 3, in a guy who may not jump off the screen but is versatile enough to help as a run defender and in rushing the passer (two things they kind of need). Then they aggressively targeted a player who, based on pure talent, could be someone who blows up opposing offenses with his vicious hits, speed and coverage ability. Not a bad first round, especially considering the comparisons it inspired.



If the draft has you in a football mood, and you’re finally optimistic again about this team, might I interest you in some football apparel?

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