49ers’ Trent Baalke reveals some of his draft philosophies

Carlos Avila Gonazles, The Chronicle

Carlos Avila Gonazles, The Chronicle

Every NFL General Manager has their own unique set of evaluation systems, grading scales and smoke-screens they use to build their respective big boards. Whether downplaying a targeted player or valuing game-film over measurables, each General Manager and his scouting department have varying differences when it comes to evaluating prospects and San Francisco 49ers GM Trent Baalke is no different. The PFWA Executive of the Year winner in 2011, Baalke spoke with the media ranging from a variety of topics in regards to his evaluation process. And while all of it may not be true as “smoke-screens” are alive and well around this time of year, he did give some candid responses. Below is a portion of his pre-draft media transcript which solely focuses on his draft philosophy.

On San Jose State QB David Fales:

“I like a lot of things about David. Very composed. He’s a very smart football player. You look at him statistically, he’s won a lot of games. He won a shootout game against Fresno, I happened to be at. He’s got good arm talent, he can make all the throws, he’s very accurate especially in the short-to-intermediate game, there’s a lot to like about David.”

On Fresno State WR Davante Adams:

“A good football player, guy with exceptional hands. Guy that can get in-and-out of breaks. You can see the numbers show up in his play. He’s got an explosive vertical jump, he’s got an explosive broad jump, you can see those numbers come out in his play. Smart football player, knows how to stem DB’s, knows how to create space, you can obviously see the basketball player in his background. Good football player.”

On drafting players with basketball backgrounds:

“Generally speaking, guys that have basketball in their background understand the key element in the sport which is space. They understand how to keep space and more importantly create space. And that’s not easily learned, it’s a natural instinct that people have.”

On how much emphasis he gives to the 40-yard dash:

“When you look at the 40, I’ve seen guys run real fast and play real slow. And I’ve seen guys run slow and play fast. And that’s why to me the film, the film doesn’t lie. You see you use it as an indicator, what I mean by that is if a guy runs fast, we got a system that we use to and we rate their play speed. So when you look at a player on film, does he play to that position’s speed?”

On possibly trading up to get a targeted player:



“The answer’s the same every year. Do we have the ammunition to make a jump and go get somebody? Yes. Are we motivated to do that? Depends. There’s so many factors that go into that but when you’re sitting at 30 where do you need to go if you are targeting someone? You saw us last year make a move to get somebody. Will we do that this year? I don’t know. I may know but I certainly wouldn’t tell you if I did know. There’s players that we certainly like, trying to determine where they may go, how high we may need to go if we choose to go. If we stay are we prepared to make a pick? Could we move back? That’s always a possibility when you’re sitting at 30, so there’s a lot of different ways we can go.”

On what he looks for in wide-receivers and their projected transition to the NFL:

“The game is different. Their route-trees, the amount of routes, the systems. You see a lot of receivers being matched up in the right system, taking advantage of what they can and can’t do. Most of the times when mistakes are made, it’s more in the makeup of the player than the physical traits in the player…you’re looking for confidence. You’re looking for guys that the stage isn’t too big for. You’re looking for strong men in both how they play and how they come across.”

I then asked him about the deep WR Draft class and what he sees in WR Mike Evans, WR Brandin Cooks and WR Kelvin Benjamin:



“What are their strengths, what are their weaknesses? Obviously Brandin Cooks is vertically challenged, right. But now you got to determine does he play 5-9 or does he play 6-0 because WR Steve Smith was 5-9 but he played 6-1, right. So there’s big receivers that play small and their’s 6-1 guys that play 5-10. Can they go get the ball? Can they play the ball? There’s so many things that factor into it. And then you’re trying to marry their talents into your system. Because systems matter. I’ve said that many of times. Some people may not agree with that but I’m a firm believer in systems matter. That’s why our players tend to look similar at positions.”


Ryan is the Founder/CEO of NinerFans.com, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at ryan@NinerFans.com or call him at (408) 622-0996.