Sakamoto: 49ers’ GM Trent Baalke Receives Thumbs Up For 2011 Off-Season Moves

Getty Images

Getty Images

It’s only fair to assess San Francisco 49ers GM Trent Baalke for the job he has done up to this point. I already gave him a thumbs up for his 2010 off-season in my part 1 of 6 series — so now onto Part 2 (2011). So without further ado, here is my assessment of Baalke for his 2011 off-season moves. Will he get a thumbs up, thumbs down, or no decision?


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2011 Draft Class

1st Round (No. 7): OLB Aldon Smith

Analysis: A bold move by Baalke as he drafted what ESPN analyst Jon Gruden called a ‘pup,’ the move turned out to be the right one, as Smith would become one of the game’s most feared pass-rushers.

However, the success was short-lived as Smith had run-ins with the law leading to multiple suspensions which greatly hampered his on-field performance but nonetheless a great find as Smith helped guide the 49ers to three consecutive NFC Championship Games as he recorded 33.5 sacks in his first two seasons — 7.5 more than Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt who was drafted just four picks later.

Review: Thumbs Up

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2nd Round (No. 36): QB Colin Kaepernick

Analysis: The 49ers needed someone to push first-round pick (No. 1) QB Alex Smith and Kaepernick proved to be the guy to get the job done, as he took the NFL by storm. A dual-threat quarterback who ran the read-option to perfection, the NFL was not ready for that type of breed from the quarterback position.

As a result, Kaepernick led the 49ers to their sixth Super Bowl appearance just one year later before eventually losing to the Baltimore Ravens. Fast forward to today and Kaepernick has found himself back on the bench, as the success was once again short-lived for the Nevada product. However, no one can question his success early on which was an integral part of being crowned NFC Champions for the sixth-time.

Review: Thumbs Up

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3rd Round (No. 80): CB Chris Culliver

Norm Hall/Getty Images

Norm Hall/Getty Images

Analysis: Sure, you can say this was a miss especially with Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman still on the board — but no one knew the kind of player Sherman would be in the NFL. Let’s be honest, he was drafted in the fifth-round for a reason, so to say Baalke missed on this pick would be unfair as 31 other NFL General Managers had plenty of chances to grab Sherman’s services.

But back to Culliver. He was a key player in the team’s early success under the Jim Harbaugh regime. A rising player who was regarded by many as an up-and-coming prospect with Pro Bowl potential, Baalke made sure he fortified a revamped secondary. In three seasons in San Francisco, Cully recorded 127 tackles, seven interceptions, and 26 pass break-ups.

Review: Thumbs Up

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4th Round (No. 115): RB Kendall Hunter

Getty Images

Getty Images

Analysis: The 49ers needed a complement running back to the Inconvenient Truth RB Frank Gore and got their wish when they selected diminutive yet shifty RB Kendall Hunter. A bruising runner between the tackles, Hunter would prove to be a valuable commodity as he spelled Gore while having no drop off in production.

In three seasons in San Francisco, Hunter would rack up 1,202 rushing yards and seven touchdowns before being released due to numerous injuries.

Review: Thumbs Up

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5th Round (No. 163): G/C Daniel Kilgore

AP

AP

Analysis: Who said that Baalke can’t find offensive talent. He did it already with Kaepernick and Hunter and now struck gold with Kilgore. A versatile offensive lineman from small-school Appalachian State, Kilgore would prove to play a key role along the team’s offensive line as he was the team’s swing guard and backup center in only his second season.

Today, Kilgore is the entrenched starter at center while having the potential to be a Pro Bowl player for years to come. Not bad for a 5th round pick.

Review: Thumbs Up

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6th Round (No. 182): WR Ronald Johnson

Analysis: This was an awful pick. I know Baalke loves to draft players from big time conferences but Johnson was nothing special which is probably why he didn’t make the team’s 53-man roster. However, not many 6th round picks do.

Review: Thumbs Down

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6th Round (No. 190): S Colin Jones 

Analysis: A true special-teams ace, Jones would prove his worth as he was one of the team’s best. A great find by Baalke as he found value late in the sixth-round. Jones currently plays for the Carolina Panthers as Baalke traded him away for a 2013 seventh-round pick back in 2012.

Review: Thumbs Up

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7th Round (No. 211): DE/FB Bruce Miller

NinerFans.com

NinerFans.com

Analysis: Kudos to Baalke for having the guts to pull the trigger on the two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. Miller who was a feared defensive-end made the seamless transition to fullback during his rookie season. A hard thing for any player to do — Baalke again found value in later rounds as Miller is the team’s current starting fullback.

Review: Thumbs Up

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7th Round (No. 239): G Mike Person

Analysis: Person was another good find in the last round of the draft. A player who made a living based on pure smarts rather than athleticism, Person would make the team as a nice backup offensive lineman. Today, Person is still in the NFL as he currently plays for the Atlanta Falcons.

Review: Thumbs Up

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7th Round (No. 250): CB Curtis Holcomb

Analysis: Not much was left when the 49ers were on the clock and they took a shot at Holcomb. Unfortunately for him — he did not make the team.

Review: No Decision

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2011 Undrafted rookie free-agents

QB Scott Tolzien

Analysis: A great find by Baalke as he picked up Tolzien off waivers from the San Diego Chargers. He would go on to be the team’s third-string quarterback and proved to be a nice find despite going undrafted. He currently plays for the Green Bay Packers.

Review: Thumbs Up

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DE DeMarcus Dobbs

Analysis: Dobbs was another great pickup by Baalke as he played both ways as a tight-end and defensive-end. A very versatile player, Baalke again found value of undrafted players as Dobbs would not only make the team but play a key role on special-teams for them for four seasons.

Review: Thumbs Up

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NT Ian Williams

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Analysis: The diamonds in the rough keep on coming as the 49ers strike gold once again with this golden nugget in Williams. A versatile defensive lineman who can play defensive-end or nose tackle, it’s Williams’ play that has solidified his spot today as one of the team’s defensive captains while being the unquestioned starter at nose-guard.

Review: Thumbs Up

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2011 Free-Agents Signings

Brant Ward/The Chronicle

Brant Ward/The Chronicle

WR Braylon Edwards (Jets), TE Justin Peele (Falcons), C Jonathan Goodwin (Saints), LB Blake Costanzo (Browns), LB Tavares Gooden (Ravens), LB Larry Grant (Rams), CB Carlos Rogers (Redskins), SS Donte Whitner (Bills), S Madieu Williams (Vikings), K David Akers (Eagles) — players re-signed QB Alex Smith, DE Ray McDonald, and FS Dashon Goldson.

Analysis: The team added two Pro Bowl players in free-agency in 2011 with the additions of Rogers and Akers. Can’t ask for more than that.

Review: Thumbs Up

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2011 Free-Agents Who Departed via Free-Agency

G/C David Bass (Giants), C Tony Wragge (Rams), G/T Barry Sims (UFA), QB Troy Smith (UFA), RB Brian Westbrook (UFA), DE Demetrick Evans (UFA), DE/OLB Travis LaBoy (Chargers), NT Aubrayo Franklin (Saints), OLB Manny Lawson (Bengals), ILB Takeo Spikes (Chargers), CB Williams James (UFA), and K Jeff Reed (Seahawks).

Analysis: Marginal players at best it was a smart move by Baalke to let these players walk as many were past their prime while others never materialized as NFL starters.

Review: Thumbs Up

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FINAL SCORE: 13 Thumbs Up, 1 Thumbs Down, and 1 No Decision

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.

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