Trent Baalke was staring Jaelen Strong right in the face with the 46th pick, and instead he chose to go with yet another player you probably hadn’t heard of before 5:20 pm on May 1, 2015: safety Jaquiski Tartt.
It’s the second time the 49ers have used a high draft pick to take a safety in the last two years, after picking up another unknown entity in Jimmie Ward last year.
Now the 49ers draft board is shaping up with two players that probably aren’t exciting their fan base: a gigantic — and I do mean gigantic, both stature- and otherwise — question mark in Arik Armstead, and a safety from a school called Samford (no, not Stanford) in Tartt.
So here’s what we know:
— Tartt is 6-1, 221 lbs (despite being described as “a small guy but a big hitter” by Matt Miller). He ran a 4.53 40 at the combine.
— The 49ers’ newest (backup?) safety collected 277 tackles, six picks and 20 pass breakups at Samford … an FCS team in the Southern Conference, in case you were wondering.*
*Their rivals are the Chattanooga Mocs, the Furman Paladins, the Wofford Terriers and the Mercer Bears, FYI
— He played behind Jimmie Ward in high school, and apparently they’re good friends. Imagine that.
Fans should expect the unexpected from Baalke, and picks like these shouldn’t surprise them at all by now. The GM’s first draft following Jim Harbaugh’s hiring produced Aldon Smith as the seventh overall pick, despite Blaine Gabbert being the consensus choice for the 49ers in that spot. The Smith pick was hailed as a reach by draftniks everywhere at the time.
So Aldon worked out, sure. But for every hit, a flop seems to follow (A.J. Jenkins immediately comes to mind, Vance McDonald follows, and the Jimmie Ward pick isn’t looking good right about now either).
Baalke’s thought process during the draft is anyone’s guess, and I’ll venture mine: While few GMs are better at collecting draft picks by moving back when it pleases them, Baalke’s track record reeks of a man terrified of losing out on the players he wants.
Even Tartt had himself further down the draftboard than Baalke did:
Jaquiski Tartt on going 2nd round to #49ers: “I was expecting third or fourth round.”
— Cam Inman (@CamInman) May 2, 2015
Here’s a scary thought:
The first two picks of this draft sure seem like the 49ers are preparing for departures. As BASG pointed out yesterday, Armstead’s arrival is the best indication of Justin Smith’s departure yet, and with an already crowded defensive backfield that includes an oft-concussed Eric Reid, an aging-everyday Antoine Bethea and an off-to-a-rough-start Jimmie Ward, Tartt has to make you wonder: What the future of this defense is really going to look like?
If this was just a depth move — ya know, Craig Dahl insurance — it could have been made later than the second round, when fantastic players were still there for the taking.
Which is of course not to say that Tartt isn’t a fantastic player; but this is another sign of a rebuilding team looking to play out the string with the players still under contract. It’ll take an amazing Saturday of drafting to convince me otherwise.