SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A wrap-up of the San Francisco 49ers' draft.
Best move: Whether you believe Oregon defensive end Arik Armstead was the right pick in the first round or not, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke did and he was able to get his man and pick up an additional two picks by trading down a mere two spots, from No. 15 to 17. “Trader” Trent cares not what you or the media thinks because, in his mind, he acquired a player he “coveted” and added depth, both to the defensive line and next year’s draft (the Niners picked up the San Diego Chargers' fourth-round selection this year, used to draft Oklahoma tight end Blake Bell, and their fifth-rounder in 2016). Sure, Armstead may, on the surface, appear more project than prospect, but Baalke believes the Niners’ D-line depth affords such a luxury. Even if you’re not a believer.
Riskiest move: OK, so while Armstead might be considered a risk in some corners, it was one worth taking so long as Baalke nailed his second-round selection, went the thinking. But when the Niners took an unknown safety in Samford’s Jaquiski Tartt with the No. 46 overall pick, eyes rolled. And if Tartt does not pan out, heads may also roll. Tartt said he expected to go in the fourth or fifth round and he essentially plays the same slot DB position as his best friend from high school, the Niners’ first-rounder from last year, Jimmie Ward. In terms of value, the 49ers seemingly could have drafted much more here. Then again, a first- and second-round talent in Virginia linebacker Eli Harold was there for the taking in the third round, so it could all be a wash in the end.
Most surprising move: Let’s just say the entire fourth round was a surprising move. Because after taking defensive players with their first three picks, the 49ers finally went offense … with three straight offensive players, and only the last pick addressing a need. And even then, Georgia Tech receiver DeAndre Smelter figures to take a redshirt year after tearing an ACL last season. The Niners’ first pick of the round was spent on a player who only made the conversion to tight end last year in Oklahoma’s Bell. Plus, the Niners already had six -- SIX! -- tight ends on the roster (they would add Busta Anderson in the seventh round to make it eight TEs). Then there was the curious case of drafting a running back who has essentially the same bodily dimensions as the departed Frank Gore, the 5-foot-9, 217-pound Mike Davis out of South Carolina. Then again, the Niners have taken a running back in seven straight drafts now, and eight of 10, so I guess that’s surprisingly not surprising. Got it?
File it away: Yes, many guffaws were heard when the Niners selected a punter in the fifth round. And I’m sure you could have heard a pin drop in Andy Lee’s house. Baalke’s stated pre-draft goal was to get bigger, and in drafting the 6-5, 229-pound Bradley Pinion out of Clemson, a guy who doubles as a kickoff specialist and, just for fun, booted a 65-yard field goal last week, he accomplished that. Even if Lee is one of the game’s all-time best punters. It would not be shocking to see Pinion, the first Clemson punter drafted since Chris Gardocki in 1991, unseat Lee, who was drafted by the Niners in the sixth round in 2004. And Phil Dawson might not want to get too comfortable, either.
My take: The Niners overcompensated on defense and at tight end while not addressing cornerback after losing both starters to free agency. It must mean Baalke, who spent four picks on defensive backs last year, likes his current roster so much that he did not care to draft for need. Rather, he went with his board. Need, you would think, would come into play in the later rounds. It did not. The issue for the Niners last season, then, if you’re extrapolating, was with coaching; not talent on the roster. Therefore the problem is gone, and coaching now in Michigan, the thinking goes. Draftwise, though, it wasn't exactly a success. Thumbs down