Prior to signing 11-year veteran
Wide receivers remain in play, according to 49ers general manager Trent Baalke.
Baalke said San Francisco now has “more freedom” to take the best player available.
So with the 2014 NFL Draft being tabbed as having the deepest pool of pass-catchers in years, the 49ers are in position to take such a prospect with any one of the team’s six picks in the first three rounds. San Francisco has 11 draft picks and could select multiple receivers for the first time since 2005.
Baalke shared insight into what the 49ers are looking for in a receiver when talking with reporters for an hour last week.
“They’ve got a little bit of air about them, a little swagger,” Baalke said. “You’re looking for confidence. You’re looking for guys where the stage isn’t too big. You’re looking for strong men, both in how they play and how they come across.
“It’s a battle out there. When you’re at that position and trying to get yourself freed up in the land of the giants, it’s a battle and you have to be prepared for it, mentally and physically.”
Baalke has been running the 49ers draft since 2010. Under his leadership, the team has selected at least one receiver each year. Fourth-round draft pick
Wide receiver has been one of the team’s most common draft targets over the past decade. San Francisco has selected at least one receiver every year since ‘02. Lloyd, the team’s recent signee, was a fourth-round draft pick in ’03.
Baalke explained why selecting receivers is an inexact science. It starts with the different style of football in the college ranks.
“The game’s different,” Baalke said. “The route trees, the amount of routes, the systems. You see a lot of receivers getting matched up in the right system, taking advantage of what they can and can’t do.”
San Francisco’s GM also pointed to the mentality needed to excel in the “land of the giants.”
“Most of the time, it’s more in the make of the player than it is in the physical traits of the player,” Baalke said. “That’s sometimes harder to determine. You can’t always see that on film. There’s a lot that goes into it.”
According to Baalke, this year’s deep pool of receivers features “uniqueness” across the board.
The 49ers GM singled out 5-foot-9 Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks, the Fred Biletnikoff as the nation’s best receiver. A player with Cooks’ talent isn’t necessarily a sure thing in the NFL.
“You’ve got to determine does he play 5-9 or does he play 6-foot?” Baalke said. “Because (Baltimore Ravens receiver) Steve Smith was 5-9, but he played 6-1… There’s good receivers that play small.
“There’s 6-1 guys that play 5-foot-10. Can they go get the ball, play the ball? There’s so many things that factor into it.”
Baalke summed up his receiver thoughts with this telling nugget.
“You try to get them to marry into your system,” Baalke said. “Systems matter. Some people maybe don’t agree, but I’m a firm believer systems matter. That’s why our players tend to look similar at positions. There’s a reason for that.”
NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock released his fourth edition of position rankings. Do YOU agree with his list? Leave your rankings in the bottom of this post.