They weren’t sexy. They weren’t flashy. They weren’t exciting. But make no mistake. The San Francisco 49ers two first-round draft picks were in fact rock solid. For the first time since 2010, 49ers GM Trent Baalke was able to work his magic in order to preserve two players he highly coveted in the first-round.
Those players ended up being Oregon DE DeForest Buckner (No. 7) and Stanford G Joshua Garnett (No. 28). Players who line up down in the trenches while playing in the highly coveted Pac-12, Baalke went back to the team’s physical identity from a three-point stance, to find value in his selections.
Buckner said he had little to no contact with #49ers during draft process. No PDV or private workout. Only 15 min. combine interview.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) April 29, 2016
“We had a great value on him [Buckner], felt that he was a strong fit for what we want to do,” Baalke said. The 49ers had the 29th-ranked rush defense last year and he explained to me why the team did little in free-agency to address the issue. Fast forward to today and the 49ers find themselves with one of the top promising 3-4 defensive lines in the NFL.
A once glaring positional weakness has instantly turned into a strength. But again, we’ve been here before.
Back in 2010, the 49ers had a porous offensive unit that needed a fountain of youth. Coincidentally, Baalke used the same ‘Baalke-ology’ in that year’s draft class, by using both of his first-round picks to shore up his team’s offensive presence down in the trenches with the draft selections of RT Anthony Davis (No. 13) and LG Mike Iupati (No. 17).
I’m a firm believer that everything starts up front. A cohesive offensive line leads to moving the chains while a strong front 7 leads to fourth downs. Coming from the Bill Parcells tree, Baalke’s philosophical views mirror that ideology which is why he moved back up in the first-round to take Garnett.
“You know the players that you want and you kind of follow the board. We’ve said all along, we want to run the football and he’s, in our mind, was the best run blocking offensive lineman, interior guy in the entire draft,” Baalke said. And I have to agree.
While the majority of fans wanted the team to address the pass-rush to pair with third-year OLB Aaron Lynch, I believe that fortifying the 49ers offensive line was indeed the right move, as Baalke’s draft game was on fleek! Yeah, Baalke if you’re reading up on the word fleek, its slang for on-point. So kudos to you and your scouting department on a job well done.