Sakamoto: 5 Things We Learned From 49ers Trent Baalke after 2016 NFL Draft

USA Today Sports/Kyle Terada

USA Today Sports/Kyle Terada

San Francisco 49ers GM Trent Baalke has a vision. Whether Forever Faithful buy-in that vision is anyone’s guess. The vision is clear. Baalke wants to rebuild his team, his way, and it started and ended with the 2016 NFL draft.

Many Niner Fans were asking me the question, ‘Why?’ Why did Baalke do little in free-agency, when he had a surplus of cap-space to use at his discretion? Good question. I went straight to the top and asked Baalke myself.

My Question: Trent, many fans were upset that you guys weren’t more pro-active in free-agency, was that planned or was that something that just kind of played itself out?

“I wouldn’t say that was the plan going into free-agency. As you know we’ve never been huge believers in the opening market of free-agency. Because let’s face it, no matter who you take on the open-market you’re overpaying them. “It’s like buying a stock at its high.” Baalke said.

I’d have to agree.

Baalke further validated his answer using facts. “You got a less than ten percent chance on hitting on a Pro Bowl caliber player. Ninety-plus percent of the ones that get signed as free-agents never make the Pro Bowl,” Baalke went on to say.

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While the 49ers did close to nothing, the New York Giants overpaid for CB Janoris Jenkins while the Oakland Raiders dished out big paychecks to OLB Bruce Irvin and OG Kelechi Osemele. All three combined for zero Pro Bowls while being paid at the top of their respective positions.

The news should be encouraging. Why? Because Baalke’s in it for the long-haul.

When a general manager is on the hot seat, he usually will hit the panic button. Baalke could have easily made a splash selection in QB Paxton Lynch. Baalke could have reached for an inside linebacker with his second first-round pick. Baalke could had overpaid for free-agents who will likely never live up to their market-value billing. But he didn’t. Why? Because that’s not the Baalke way.

“I don’t look at the short-term. I think I’ve mentioned that. I’m looking at the long-term vision of the San Francisco 49ers, where we are today and where we want to be,” Baalke told beat writers back in 2011. “If you look in the short-term and you’re worried about job security and all that, you make bad decisions.”

Fast forward to today, and you can tell by his actions, he’s staying true to that philosophy.

Aside from his long-term outlook, Baalke is not one to reach for need. I’m a firm believer that whenever you reach for need you diminish the value of the pick. Not only that but you’re compromising your very own scouting department.

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Countless hours go into researching prospects starting around the time training camp rolls around. From 49ers Senior Personnel Director Ethan Waugh to DOCS (Director of College Scouting) Matt Malaspina, it’s imperative that Baalke values their input, as they work diligently year-round in getting it right. Those two along with National Scout Justin Chabot and regional scout Bob Morris, don’t get enough credit for the jobs they do.

#49ers Southern Regional scout Bob Morris with Matt Malaspina

A video posted by Ryan Sakamoto 🏈 (@sakamotoryan_) on

In fact, I heard from numerous scouts on two separate AFC North teams, that Morris is highly regarded as one of the best in evaluating defensive backs. No wonder, Baalke selected FS Eric Reid, DB Jimmie Ward, and SS Jaquiski Tartt.

If Baalke was to reach for need, then what’s the point of having a scouting department? It’s basically a slap in their face. The draft board is set up for a reason and it’s Baalke’s job as General Manager to feel that his scouts are empowered.

Getty Images

Getty Images

The job description is general manager. In order to be a good manager you don’t micro-manage. Rather you get things done through other people with an open-door policy (communication). At the end of the day, the NFL is a business. How would you like to work for a boss who disregards all the hard work and effort you put into a 6-month project?  You wouldn’t.

The 49ers clearly have a glaring need at the inside linebacker position. I’m not dismissing that at all. It’s clear as day. But the reasoning behind why Baalke didn’t draft one, is more due to a weak linebacker draft class rather than simply turning the other cheek. Whether or not we agree with his draft board is another story. But Baalke drafting for need over BPA is not in his DNA.

However, with that being said, we did learn that Baalke will “conservatively reach” for a need in the tail-end of the first-round. He did it with the selection of three first-round picks; WR A.J. Jenkins (2012), Ward (2014) and now OG Joshua Garnett (2016). A drafting ideology he learned from the great Bill Parcells, Baalke is a firm believer in taking his guy off the board.

“Coach’s mentality, if you like a player take them. If you like them at 30, what’s the difference if you take him at 30 or 33 or 34. If you like the player, take them because if you don’t take them and you trade back, you may not like the outcome,” Baalke told beat writers in 2012.

Then there’s Baalke taking risks once again on ACL injured players. One would think he would shy away from his All-ACL team strategy but not Baalke. “This is a risk/reward business,” Baalke told Tim Kawakami. Just a few days later, the team drafted their sixth ACL injured player CB Will Redmond in the third-round (No. 68).

Which leads me into my last thing we learned at the conclusion of the 2016 NFL Draft. Competition. Baalke is all about creating competition. It stems from the Parcells tree that competition brings out the best. So it should come as no surprise that he drafted three cornerbacks to help breed competition.

“You can never have enough skill at that position and you can never have enough competition at that position and that’s how the board laid out. We have always maintained, we’re going to take the best players available on that board and there’s nothing wrong with creating competition,” Baalke emphasized.

As the 49ers prepare for their rookie mini-camp later this afternoon, I will keep you posted on their current progress. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and this article was no different (literally). I’m out! Lol! Deuces!

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of, 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 or call him at (408) 622-0996.