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Baalke Talks Strategy with Sirius Radio

Posted by Taylor Price on May 4, 2011 – 1:58 PM

Many assumed the 49ers would take a quarterback with the No. 7 pick selection of the 2011 NFL Draft, but as it turned out, the team valued a defensive difference-maker more than a signal caller at that particular selection.

As we all know, the 49ers took pass-rushing specialist Aldon Smith of Missouri rather than Blaine Gabbert, the Tigers quarterback of the past three seasons. Instead of tabbing Gabbert as the team’s newest signal caller, the 49ers had been targeting Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick all along.

General manager Trent Baalke revealed that insight into the 49ers draft strategy on Wednesday when speaking on Sirius NFL Radio’s “Sirius XM Blitz.”

“Our game plan all along was to do exactly what we did,” Baalke told XM Blitz hosts Rich Gannon and Adam Schein. “Either address the corner position or the pass rush position, whichever we felt we could get the most value from with the first pick and then circle back and pickup the quarterback.”

Baalke said the 49ers weren’t going to take a signal caller at No. 7, but felt he would have to address the position at some point in the second round or earlier.

“We were going to address the quarterback position if our board fell the way we were hoping it would,” he said.

So when Kaepernick remained available in the early picks of the second round, Baalke began to work the phones in order to find the right trade partner.

“When the time came, we tried to make a move up into a little bit higher than where we actually landed Colin,” Baalke detailed. “That didn’t work and so we worked down to a position where we finally had an opening and found a team willing to work with us and got the deal done.”

That partner would be the Denver Broncos, who accepted San Francisco’s No. 45, 108 and 141st overall selections in exchange for their No. 36 overall pick.

And now that the draft dust has settled, Baalke and his staff feel great about what was accomplished, the addition of 10 players who fit the mold of the organization.

“As you can see throughout the draft, one of the key ingredients we were looking for was the versatility of these players,” Baalke said.

With the top two choices, the 49ers added a chess piece for the defense’s front-seven defense as well as a mobile quarterback, who was the only player in NCAA history to throw for more than 10,000 yards and rush for more than 4,000 yards.

Besides flexibility, the 49ers found two passionate players who fit in with the hard-working personalities inside the locker room.

When asked about the challenges Smith will face in converting from college defensive end to NFL outside linebacker, Baalke’s response was centered on Smith’s unique blend of athleticism and character.

“We felt Aldon had all the characteristics that we were looking for to become a very productive pass rusher at the NFL level,” Baalke said. “We loved his skill sets and we really liked the person, the intangible aspect, the way he carries himself on and off the field.

“The makeup, I guess, is what attracted us to him as much as anything.”

The general manager pointed to the lack of 3-4 schemes in the college game as a reason for so many teams having to take a leap of faith on turning defensive ends as pro linebackers. He cited several top outside linebackers in the league as player’s who came from “putting their hand in the dirt,” – a reference to the three-point stance used by defensive ends.

Baalke said it will be a process for Smith to learn all the functions of his position, most notably pass coverage, but Baalke felt comfortable that Smith’s pass-rushing skills make the selection worth it.

“As far as setting the edge and rushing the passer, which are the two most important aspects of playing that position, we feel very good that’s going to be a quick process for him to understand how we want him to do it,” Baalke said.

With a great deal of insight from the 49ers personnel and coaching staffs, Baalke sounded confident in the ability of each draftee to come in and learn quickly once teams are allowed to conduct offseason workouts once again.

“With every player,” Baalke began, “there’s an ability to get better and this staff I truly believe in. They’re going to do an excellent job of putting these players in position to be successful.”

Other notable items from the general manager’s interview included:

-Baalke’s explanation of what the team discussed before making the Smith selection. “We considered a lot of guys. It just came down to Aldon and the attributes he brings to the table, the versatility. Here’s a guy who played on his feet a little bit at the college level, did do it at times, but also played from the seven, down to the five, down to the three-technique. Just the range and the versatility that he showed at the college level is intriguing.”

-Baalke spoke highly of the variety of positions third-round pick Chris Culliver can play as well as the position flexibility that fifth-round pick Daniel Kilgore and seventh-round pick Michael Person provide. “They all are going to make a transition, but the more you can do, especially if you start out in this league as a backup player, the better chance you have of making the football team and being a productive player moving forward.”

-Kaepernick became the team’s targeted quarterback after Baalke and Harbaugh ran him through a private workout following Nevada’s pro day. Kaepernick was so impressive in responding to Harbaugh’s workout, the team didn’t need to bring him in as one of their allowed 30 pre-draft visits.

-Baalke “flirted” with moving back into the first round to take Kaepernick, but he didn’t find any trades worth pulling the trigger on. “To me, it’s all about value,” Baalke said. “I don’t mind losing a trade here and there but you certainly don’t want to get killed. No one enjoys getting whooped. We did find anyone who was a willing suitor so it brought a little tension along the way trying to make sure we could get into position. But everything works out for a reason and we’re certainly glad it worked out the way it did. We’re glad to have Colin on board.”

-When asked about the status of free agent quarterback Alex Smith, Baalke reiterated the team’s recent stance of wanting to make each position group as competitive as possible. “It’s well-known that Alex is welcome back here and we’d love to put him in the mix,” Baalke said. “That’s going to be up to him when the time comes to make that decision.”

-When asked about the status of the team’s current quarterback depth chart, Baalke said the team wasn’t done adding to the group. “How we do it – remains to be seen,” he said. “I’ve come out and said we’re going to get the best possible players, roll out the ball and let them compete.”

-Baalke’s plan for the rest of the offseason is to create competition throughout the roster once the league’s work stoppage is resolved and free agency is restored. “I know we’re going to continue to look at every avenue to make this as competitive of a roster at every position as we can – quarterback being no different.”

-Baalke said he’s keeping an ear to the rumblings on potential quarterbacks available, but isn’t allowing it to consume him. “You consume yourself with getting this team, this organization to the highest level that you can. That’s where we’re at from a mindset stage right now.”

-Lastly, Baalke was asked about his working relationship with Harbaugh to which he raved once again. “His ability to think outside the box, his passion for the game,” Baalke highlighted. “He’s always thinking, his mind is always churning. His looking for ways to get better and he’s not afraid of the challenges that go along with drafting a guy who may have to convert to a new position. He can see the value in doing that at times.”

Posted in Announcements | 33 Comments »

33 Responses to “Baalke Talks Strategy with Sirius Radio”

  1. By Len Ramirez on May 4, 2011 | Reply

    Don’t get me wrong, Aldon Smith looks like an animal on the field hurting quarterbacks and he’ll be a great addition to the 9ers.

    Earlier in the year when Baalke and Harbaugh came on board, he stated “The future QB of the 49ers is NOT on the current roster.”

    Why are we still entertaining the idea of Alex being back in the pocket another year?!?!?!

  2. By Dave on May 4, 2011 | Reply

    Probably because “David Carr” is the only QB on the roster earlier… haha. Troy and Alex Smith are Free Agents… I did hope that they would of brought in a veteran QB to the mix but now since Alex Smith already has a Playbook, he better return to the niners

  3. By Jack Bauer on May 4, 2011 | Reply


    I believe the Niners are entertaining Alex Smith for one more year is to give Kaepernick some time to develop. Harbaugh is a former QB, so I’m sure he understands the learning curve among rookies trying to make it through their first year at the professional level. I rather see Kaepernick go through a gradual process instead of thrusting him into the fire like Smith. Smith never had the luxury to learn the QB position in the NFL the right way, especially working with 5 different offensive coordinators.

  4. By Jack Bauer on May 4, 2011 | Reply


    I believe the Niners are entertaining Alex Smith for one more year to give Kaepernick some time to develop. Harbaugh is a former QB, so I’m sure he understands the learning curve among rookies trying to make it through their first year at the professional level. I rather see Kaepernick go through a gradual process instead of thrusting him into the fire like Smith. Smith never had the luxury to learn the QB position in the NFL the right way, especially working with 5 different offensive coordinators.

  5. By Martin on May 4, 2011 | Reply

    Did you forget about the secondary? Can you please spend the money for a true lock down corner ( the free agent Raider across the Bay ). Free up the money by restructuring Clements or get rid of him.

    Do I have to remind you of what Vincent Jackson did to our secondary after being off the field for most of the year. How about what Roddie did.

  6. By Leo on May 4, 2011 | Reply

    Aldon Smith looks like a bigger Michael Jordan.

  7. By Steve on May 4, 2011 | Reply

    I’m also tired of the Alex Smith era however I think with this stupid lockout it is our best option. At least he has had experience with these receivers and O-line. If we were to bring in any veteran I think it would be a bigger disaster if he only had 1 month to prepare.

  8. By ninerdynasty on May 4, 2011 | Reply

    from what i hear alex smith wants a 2 year 20 mil and 10 mil in guarantee or he walks.. and from what ive heard the niners will be pay him just that… that says it all about this organizations..they had probably one of the worst drafts this year and then they will overpaid a lousy QB? WTF!?!?

  9. By KIMBLE/SLICE on May 4, 2011 | Reply

    No disrespect to alex smith but take a look at the QB’s that have came in the league after him all have proven they have it i’m just not sold on him as a QB i would start the QB we got in the draft love the aldon smith pick we really needee a rusher that could get to the qauterback

  10. By Allen on May 4, 2011 | Reply

    Alex Smith is a duckling just waiting to turn into a swan. All he needs is a good coach to turn him into a killing machine. I am so freaking pleased that Harbaugh values Alex Smith, and I can’t wait to see what they’ll accomplish together. Those playoffs got our name on ‘em this year!

  11. By 4th and 1 on May 4, 2011 | Reply

    Baalke/Harbaugh keep talking about the “makeup,” “character, “and” “wiring” of the player as of this is some sort of Alice in Wonderland movie. I hope they don’t overlook top talent because of personality traits.

  12. By jose cisneros on May 4, 2011 | Reply

    We should have gotten Robert Quinn.

  13. By Tom on May 4, 2011 | Reply

    Alex Smith just needs good coaching and he will be a star. Five OCs and now 3 head coaches in 5 years has not afforded him the luxury of good consistent coaching. I think Harbaugh is the right head coach for him. Give him one more chance before letting him go to another team where he will be a star.

  14. By DJ on May 5, 2011 | Reply

    We coulda traded back and got Aldon Smith. Come on Baalke. Learn from the past. Belichecks been doin it every year. That woulda gave us an extra 2nd rounder that we coulda used to get someone like Ras-I Dowling. We still have a DB problem. Go get Asomugha man. Our fans need a spark until the new guys get rolling.

  15. By Aaron on May 5, 2011 | Reply

    I think Alex Smith has shown signs of greatness in the past. The inconsistency is very troubling but now with Harbaugh in there hopefully he can help Alex until Colin is ready. I think every day i start liking the alden pick a little more.

  16. By Brody on May 5, 2011 | Reply

    I don’t get the Culliver pick.If you were looking for a DB why him?There seemed to be better choices at that pick.

  17. By Ernie on May 5, 2011 | Reply

    It’s all good! Now coach em up.Sometimes a different Philosophy in defense is all you need to improve dramaticly…I hope to see “The makeup” show through on the field soonI also i see Kap starting out as the RED ZONE QB-(a strength).Remember Deberg & Montana..Miller with coach Rathman sounds like fun..maybe he can revive the 2 way player in the NFL.I wonder if the OL-Person can play NOSE as well…good drive blocker..I like all the picks..the only thing left to do is start handing out the nick names..I like the one Charles Davis called KAP..(OPTOMUS PRIME)..how about KAPTIAN COMEBACK 2-(The Sequel).Maybe Alex Smith can be my name is EARL..he can be a good guy again.!?

  18. By J on May 5, 2011 | Reply

    How About: Colin Kap and Clipboard, becuase thats all he will be doing next year.

  19. By KIMBLE/SLICE on May 5, 2011 | Reply

    Come on guy’s we gave him everything he needed in last year draft starting with the offensive line and he had the same offensive cordinator last year i was a alex smith fan i just think the 49ers should go in another directoin and not let another season go to waste

  20. By Jay on May 5, 2011 | Reply

    For everyone wondering why Harbaugh still sees so much potential in Alex heres a concise write up by another expert who spent their whole career in the NFL he says Alex is close to becoming a championship QB and I agree


  21. By Len Ramirez on May 5, 2011 | Reply

    I’m supposed to listen to Tollner? One year with the 9ers makes him an Alex Smith expert? The other #1 pick Tollner coached was in Oakland. JaMarcus Russell. Another bust. Tollner and JaMarcus are expelled. Tollner can’t keep a job. I am so sick of the excuses. Try him one more year. It’s not his fault. If all the things you don’t want to eat, taste like chicken, why not just go out and get a chicken?! Okay, slightly random, but if you can connect the dots…if you’re willing to give Alex one more chance, why not give some other QB a chance. I’m just sayin’…

  22. By Bob on May 5, 2011 | Reply

    @Len Ramirez: Because Alex isn’t on the roster. He’s a free agent. When reporters asked why the 49ers are willing to bring back Alex in light of the comment you referenced, Baalke expressed that the statement was taken out of its proper regard. All it basically means is that the future of the position isn’t David Carr. Beyond that, it means nothing.

  23. By STAN 78 on May 5, 2011 | Reply

    DITTO! Len

  24. By J Parker on May 5, 2011 | Reply

    Alex Smith has talent, but he lacks heart. He starts to make mistake after mistake as the game progresses. This is especially true after he has taken a few hits. I was hoping he would toughen up with experience. He did a little, but has a ways to go.

  25. By leon ph on May 6, 2011 | Reply

    htink about it the lock out has tied our hands you hafto bring back Alex he knows the recievers and coach is great with qb’s go 9ers

  26. By QuisBoi on May 6, 2011 | Reply

    Our D finished 13th last year Aldon Smith was not a good pick Manny Lawson is better and more complete outside linebacker. Singletary had the team playing so scared we did not blitz our backers and you can’t get much pressure with 3 down lineman. That’s why Justin Smith has lead the team in sacks he’s the most atheletic in the d-line rotation. The offense has to help out more they finished 24th. Can’t wiat to see our D play with a lead.
    Go 49ERS & to the faithful “United We Stand Divided We Fall” We support our own so welcome back Alex Smith

  27. By QuisBoi on May 6, 2011 | Reply

    We could have got CB Prince Amukamara

  28. By ftgambit on May 8, 2011 | Reply

    I think its hilarious that some clowns on here can post that Baalke could have traded back a few spots and still got Aldon Smith like they have a clue about the complexities of a draft! People actually think they know more than the guys with all the information in front of them for months and prepare and have staff meettings on the draft board and then make stupid statements after the fact, no way you could know that A Smith would still be there hindisight is always 20/20

  29. By Alex Smythe on May 8, 2011 | Reply

    Lets get the competition started! I’m ready to roll!

  30. By WRIGGY kNITE on May 8, 2011 | Reply

    Harbaugh knows which kinds of offenses work in the NFL today. He also know’s the potentially deadly mix of weaponry he has to use at his discretion. He’s gambling that A.Smitty will like what he sees in the schemes and will also understand the opportunity he’d have to flourish in a healthy, competent environment.

  31. By Juan Garcia on May 8, 2011 | Reply

    I’m with Jay on that too, he is real close to being a good QB on a good team this time around, if he does get it together he can be real good since he already has the chemistry with the team.

  32. By armando salinas on May 9, 2011 | Reply

    Each coach thinks they are special and can do the job on Alex,he has a mental problem,your goos Qb can concentrate when needed,even the dumb ones,know that you have to be on your toes,Alex is a sleep,wakes up for about two drives,and eveyone says “maybe he do it for entire ball game”,he cannot even play two good qts,it is mental with him-he does not care-inthe old days any 2nd string 49er qt would of gotten nine wins with the current team,Alex is not the answer…..

  33. By Colin Brickley on May 15, 2011 | Reply


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