Colin Kaepernick

2015 season pivotal for several early-round Trent Baalke draft picks

Jimmie Ward 49ers

I’ve already graded Trent Baalke once before, and in the process I went over his draft history. Since then, a few of his early-round draft choices have either decided to take a hike or been shown the door. Others are teetering on the edge of “bust” status if they don’t produce this year.

Anything a team gets out of the picks on Day 3 of a draft should be considered a major bonus. Baalke was sort of in charge at the time of the 2010 NFL Draft, although the situation was fluid with Scot McCloughan departing. Still, for the purposes of this story, we’ll include 2010, and that adds some talent to Baalke’s late-round draft resume.

2010: Anthony Dixon (sixth round), Kyle Williams (sixth round)

2011: Kendall Hunter (fourth round), Daniel Kilgore (fifth round), Bruce Miller (seventh round)

2012: Joe Looney* (fourth round)

2013: Quinton Patton* (fourth round), Quinton Dial (fifth round), Nick Moody (sixth round), B.J. Daniels** (seventh round)

2014: Bruce Ellington (fourth round), Dontae Johnson (fourth round), Aaron Lynch (fifth round), Keith Reaser (fifth round), Kenneth Acker (sixth round)

*Hey, at least he’s still on the roster.

**Hey, at least he’s still on A roster.

Those are all players who’ve either played several games for the 49ers or have a good shot at a roster spot in 2015, at the very least.

Let’s look at his early-round picks over the same period.

2010: Anthony Davis (first round — retired), Mike Iupati (first round — left via FA), Taylor Mays (second round — traded to Bengals before ’11 season), NaVorro Bowman (third round — starting ILB)

2011: Aldon Smith (first round — released), Colin Kaepernick (second round — starting QB), Chris Culliver (third round — left via FA)

2012: A.J. Jenkins (first round — traded before 2013 season), LaMichael James (second round — released)

Vance McDonald SF 49ers preseason warmups2013: Eric Reid (first round — starting FS), Tank Carradine (second round — backup DT), Vance McDonald (second round — backup TE), Corey Lemonier (third round — backup OLB)

2014: Jimmie Ward (first round — nickel CB/SS), Carlos Hyde (second round — starting RB), Marcus Martin (third round — G/C), Chris Borland (third round — retired), Brandon Thomas (third round — G/T)

Out of 18 players drafted in the first three rounds over that five-year span, 10 are still with the team. Four are clear starters heading into 2015 — Bowman, Kaepernick, Reid and Hyde. Other than Reid, there are huge questions about every single one of these players.

  • Bowman: Will he ever be the same after major knee surgery?
  • Kaepernick: Will he play well enough to convince the 49ers to keep him in 2016?
  • Carradine: Is he a suitable replacement for Justin Smith or Ray McDonald?
  • V. McDonald: Will he even make the 53-man roster?
  • Lemonier: Now that the 49ers are forced to keep him, can he get to the QB at all?
  • Ward: Forget what position he’ll play — can he stay healthy?
  • Hyde: He’s been nicked up throughout his time at Ohio St. and with the 49ers — can he be the bell cow back for 16 games?
  • Martin: Is he a starting-caliber interior lineman?
  • Thomas: Same question as Martin, and has his knee healed?

You can probably throw the 2015 Draft class into this formula, too. Blake Bell, Mike Davis, Ian Silberman, Trent Brown and Busta Anderson may pay dividends relatively soon, while Bradley Pinion is already the team’s starting punter.

But what about Arik Armstead, who missed a lot of the offseason and needs to get in better condition? (This is based on Saturday’s game, after which Eric Mangini said, “It’s funny just talking to guys about conditioning, it gets a little, he was a little tired towards the end there. But, I thought he strained throughout the game.”) Jaquiski Tartt is the third safety taken in the first two rounds over the last three drafts, so the 49ers need to show the logic there, and Eli Harold will be needed if Lemonier plays like he did last year.

There’s always pressure on players during training camp, but in this case the pressure is also on the GM. His draft history is full of “depth” or “value” guys, but right now this roster is short on clear stars that he drafted. Usually stars come from the first three rounds. We’ll see if some emerge this year.

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