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49ers mailbag: Let's talk draft

It’s April, so the NFL draft is right around the corner, which means an #AskPaulG mailbag is appropriate, no?

Without further ado …

@PGutierrezESPN: Well, with Jim Tomsula and his new staff being more a part of the Trent Baalke mindset, I would think this new coaching “regime” would be more in lockstep with the front office than Jim Harbaugh & Co. ever would have been. Now, does that make it a good thing? Or does a little dissension serve as a means of checks and balances, so to speak? Stay tuned. This much is true, though: You won’t hear Tomsula questioning a Baalke pick, as Harbaugh might have done.

@PGutierrezESPN: The Niners are in a unique position in that at No. 15, they’re practically in the middle of the first round, meaning they have the luxury of drafting for need rather than taking the best player available, as teams drafting early have to do because, well, they have so many needs. And yet, the Niners have a lot of holes to plug with this offseason’s exodus from Santa Clara. If they do stay at No. 15, they essentially have to wait for the draft to come to them, and unless a game-changing receiver is there for the taking, and depending upon what Justin Smith decides to do, Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead fits many red-and-gold bills. I don’t see a game-changing receiver catching Baalke’s fancy in the second round, unless, as you suggest, someone falls and Baalke, who has nine picks (including two non-tradable comp selections), starts wheeling and dealing. He must be leery, though, of another A.J. Jenkins. Remember him?

@PGutierrezESPN: To quote your girl Debbie Gibson, who, by the way, sang the national anthem at Dodger Stadium the night Kirk Gibson went walk-off big fly in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, anything is possible. But buyer beware of A.J. Jenkins clones. Cooper, though, is rated on many boards as the top receiver out there not named Kevin White. Still, Cooper also projects as more of a slot receiver, which would actually fit better in the Niners’ plans with the speedy Torrey Smith purportedly here to take the top off defenses, Anquan Boldin grabbing everything underneath and Vernon Davis, well, attempting to become Vernon Davis again. Cooper in a Niners uni? Stranger things have happened, like the Niners drafting A.J. Jenkins. But I digress …

@PGutierrezESPN: Baalke has said he already has two starters at inside linebacker in the Niners’ 3-4 scheme in NaVorro Bowman and Michael Wilhoite. Bowman still is recuperating from a near 15-month-old left knee injury and Wilhoite was solid in his first full season as a starter. Bishop and Nick Moody are backups, so keep an eye on Lance Briggs, even though he turns 35 in November, has been limited to 17 games the past two season because of injuries and has been a weakside linebacker in the Chicago Bears’ 4-3 defense. The Niners are intrigued by his resume as a seven-time Pro Bowler and a veteran presence, and after the retirement of Patrick Willis and questions remaining about Bowman, at least until he plays, the Sacramento-reared Briggs makes some sense. It will be interesting to see what Baalke does, though, if an inside linebacker he loves (if there is one) is sitting there at No. 15.

@PGutierrezESPN: Publically, yes. Even if Josh Johnson’s skill set is closer to that of Colin Kaepernick than that of Gabbert. But, as Tomsula said at the NFL owners meetings, the Niners like the “intangibles” Gabbert brings as a former top 10 pick and starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sure, Gabbert is more of a pocket-passing dink-and-dunk artist, but he apparently is good for the Niners QB room and is a steadying presence. Plus, Gabbert was the only Niners QB to throw a fourth-quarter TD pass last year, so he had that going for him, which is nice. Having written all of that, the Niners will still add an arm or two for offseason workouts. Drafting a QB? Maybe late, if at all.