The 2011 NFL Draft is in the books, but it didn’t take place without suspense, trades, and the addition of 10 players to the 49ers roster.
Though each one is unique in their own right, Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke added players who fit the qualifications they envisioned for the 2011 San Francisco 49ers.
Talent is one thing that attracted the 10 players to the 49ers head coach and general manager, representing the organization with character and class was equally as important as well.
“That was coming down from our organization and we are all about that because it all comes down to, on a football team, the guys and the ways,” Harbaugh said. “When I say that, it’s the guys you have in the building and the way you do things, and you want guys that love football, that are good people and be good teammates because it’s a team game.”
With each of the draftees, Harbaugh found the attributes he was looking for in building his first roster as a head coach in the NFL. He also came to realize the depths the 49ers scouting staff went to research each draft-eligible player.
“I was really, really impressed with the over 12 months work that went into identifying what is a 49er,” Harbaugh said. “For Trent Baalke to put a definition on what a 49er is and get everybody in the process to understand that and we bought into it. From coaches and scouts and our entire organization, being a Niner, putting the gold dot, the gold helmet on a guy’s card, that meant something to everybody that was evaluating and picking these players, so that’s who we want to be.”
In his post-draft press conference, Harbaugh further described the scouting staff’s process of designating their favorite prospects by placing a gold sticker on the respective cards on the team’s draft board. Harbaugh said the 49ers picked the most gold dot players of anybody in the draft. “And it wasn’t even close,” he added.
Because many of the draftees will play a different position than they did in college, some in the media wondered if the 49ers added a developmental draft class, to which Harbaugh and Baalke disagreed.
Harbaugh commented that every incoming NFL prospect could be categorized as a developmental player. Baalke said the draftees would need time to make their conversion, but was very high on this draft class as a whole being able to develop.
“We have a lot of confidence, and I do specifically in this coaching staff, to develop these guys,” Baalke added. “When you look at the guys, not everybody is going to be used at the collegiate level the way they’re going to be used in the NFL. All of these guys that we drafted, we felt very strongly had the traits that we were looking for physically to make the changes that we’re going to be asking them to make in our system.”
Now let’s move on to a brief meet and greet with the 10 newest members of the 49ers. Here’s a quick snapshot of the prospects added to the roster.
Round 1, Pick No. 7 – Aldon Smith, LB Missouri
If you followed our draft coverage, you’d know already that Smith is the Tigers all-time single-season sack leader, having topped Justin Smith’s school record. But besides knowing about Aldon’s 11.5 sacks in 2009, many should know he missed three games with a broken leg in 2010 and still was a difference-maker.
What you probably didn’t know is that Smith is a self-motivator, with the Spanish phrase “vas a ver,” tattooed very faintly next to his left ear. It means “you’ll see,” something Smith uses as motivation when he senses people doubting his ability.
Round 2, Pick No. 36 – Colin Kaepernick, QB Nevada
Kaepernick’s throwing motion has been much talked about during the pre-draft hype, but there’s probably no better way to discuss it than to see him throw a football or two in super, slow-motion. Thanks Sports Science.
We touched on Kaepernick’s story as part of “Draft Spotlight” series before the 2011 NFL Draft, Kaepernick’s hometown newspaper, The Turlock Journal, did a fine job in covering Kaepernick’s remarkable journey as well.
Round 3, Pick No. 80 – Chris Culliver, CB South Carolina
Like many of the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine participants, Culliver did a sit-down interview with Eastbay, the athletic equipment catalog provider. From this clip, we learned Culliver’s reason for playing the game of football. “I love the intensity,” said the versatile defensive back, who made 32 starts in four seasons at South Carolina.
Culliver’s selection might have taken some off guard, but not to those who’ve seen him up close and in person. SI.com draft guru Tony Pauline listed Culliver as one of the best defensive backs to perform at the combine.
Round 4, Pick No. 118 – Kendall Hunter, RB Oklahoma State
In examining Hunter’s postgame press conferences posted by Oklahoma State’s media relations department, the 5-foot-7 running back appears to be very calm and calculated in his responses.
He doesn’t seem to let emotions get the best of him. Maybe it’s because Hunter is thinking about taking a nap in the back of his mind. The two-time All-American said he likes to take 10-minute naps before every game. That fun fact underscores Hunter’s calm temperament on gameday.
Round 5, Pick No. 163 – Daniel Kilgore, G Appalachian State
The 49ers added depth to the offensive line by selecting Kilgore in the fifth-round. He started 29 games for the Mountaineers, including 16 starts at right guard and 13 games at left tackle. Kilgore is listed by the 49ers at guard, but will be an option at all three interior line positions.
Like Culliver, Kilgore sat down with Eastbay at the combine and shared insight to his personality. The Kingsport, Tenn., native said he enjoys the great outdoors, especially fishing, hunting and cookouts.
Round 6, Pick No. 182 – Ronald Johnson, WR USC
We caught up with Johnson at the 2011 Senior Bowl media night and found him to be a nice guy, eager to show his skills at receiver and in the punt return game.
We weren’t the only ones who recalled Johnson. John Morton, Johnson’s wide receivers coach in college, now with the 49ers, was adamant about picking his former pupil. Harbaugh too, had fond memories of the 5-foot-10, 185-pound wideout, whom he competed against four times in college while coaching Stanford.
Round 6, Pick No. 190 – Colin Jones, S TCU
Jones comes to the 49ers as one of the most special teams-ready players in this year’s draft. His tackling ability certainly intrigued Harbaugh and assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Brad Seely. In this postgame interview following a 38-7 rout of Air Force, Jones talked about how he uses is eyes to his advantage while one reporter stuck the world’s biggest recorder in his face.
Harbaugh pointed out Jones’ fearlessness as his biggest asset. “I’m really excited about Colin Jones from TCU. There’s a guy that I cannot wait to watch him run down on a kickoff, full throttle, running his 4.3 with his mindset, his get from point A to Point B and go hit somebody mentality.”
Round 7, Pick No. 211 – Bruce Miller, FB Central Florida
Bruce Miller’s highlight video from a stellar four-year career doesn’t look like most fullback highlight videos. It’s for good reason. Miller was a productive, two-time Conference-USA Defensive Player of the Year (2009, 20010) at defensive end.
But as witnessed in the clip, Miller provides the 49ers with another big-bodied “football player.” Harbaugh made sure Miller was up to the challenge of switching positions, but had little reservations because of Miller’s unbridled passion for the game.
“I got on the phone with Bruce,” Harbaugh said, “and made sure when we are on the clock that we were looking for a guy that’s willing to be a fullback and make that conversion and he said, ‘Coach, I’m a football player. Whatever you ask me to do, I’m going to do,’ so he was very excited about it. He may also be a pass rusher too. So, we’re not closing the door on any options with that youngster. I think he is a football player.”
Round 7, Pick No. 239 – Mike Person, G Montana State
Judging by this clip, the 49ers added another quality person, Mike Person, in the seventh-round. It’s been a great couple of days for the Montana State lineman too. A few hours after being drafted, Person won the Little Sullivan Award given to Montana’s top amateur athlete.
As was the case with many of the team’s draft picks including the Kilgore selection in the fifth, the 49ers fell in love with Person’s versatility.
“If you’re going to be a backup lineman in the NFL, you have to have position versatility,” Baalke said. “If we didn’t feel they could offer us that, we wouldn’t have made the decision to pick them.”
Round 7, Pick No. 250 – Curtis Holcomb, CB Florida A&M
For the second consecutive year, the 49ers selected a small-school cornerback prospect with their final draft choice. In 2010 it was South Carolina State’s Phillip Adams, who went on to make the 49ers roster and contribute on special teams before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in St. Louis.
Holcomb, as witnessed in this clip, is a soft-spoken player who is all about the details of his position. Here he talks about the preparation that goes into his defensive back position. The attention to detail helped Holcomb intercept 12 passes in 45 games for the Rattlers.
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