Baalke: 49ers' top pick Smith armed to succeed

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Baalke: 49ers' top pick Smith armed to succeed

May 12, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEOMatt MaioccoCSNBayArea.comSANTA CLARA -- The yearly cycle of the scouting process culminated two weeks ago with the 49ers' addition of 10 draft picks.On Thursday, general manager Trent Baalke returned to the film room in an annual session with the media to specify what attracted the organization to each of the rookies.Many have observed the 49ers selected a large number of college players who project to different positions at the NFL level. Baalke staunchly defended the tactic as a necessary part of scouting."What you guys see as a projection, to us, isn't a projection," Baalke said. "It's what we have to do to find players who fit the system we play."Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith is one of those players. He mostly played defensive end but also saw some action at defensive tackle in college. With the 49ers, he'll be asked to play outside linebacker."He's lined up all over the line of scrimmage," Baalke said. "That's one of the first things we looked at, the versatility that he brings to the table. At 6-4, 260-plus pounds, the guy can play inside and outside."Dropping into coverage is not something at which Smith must excel, Baalke said. In fact, the ability to rush the passer and set the edge in the run game are the top priorities for an outside linebacker in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme."What we asking them to do on their feet (in pass coverage) is very limited," Baalke said. "When you're talking about a 3-4 cover guy out in space, he's got to be function. We feel Aldon has the physical traits to be functional."What you're asking them to do in drops, relative to what you're asking them to do as pass-rushers and edge-setters is really insignificant. We're not asking them to be out there running man-for-man with wide receivers. We're asking them to occupy a zone. And when you're 6-4 with 36-inch arms, if you're functional on your feet and drop into coverage, you can cover a wide area because of the length and size of the man."Smith had 17 sacks in his two college seasons. But he also shows an ability to remain stout against the run and track down plays from the backside. Smith does a good job of keeping his eye on the ball even while engaged with a blocker, Baalke pointed out. On a couple of the plays, Smith used his 36-inch arms and meathooks-for-hands to reach out and make a tackle. "If he had 32-inch arm length, he doesn't make that tackle," Baalke said.At least two independent draft evaluators questioned the 49ers' selection of Smith with the No. 7 overall pick. Former NFL scout Dave Razzano said he believes Smith lacks the strength to play on the line and is too stiff to play in space. Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com wrote that he sees Smith as a questionable fit for the 49ers. "I didn't see the balance and change-of-direction from Smith that I believe translates into a high degree of success as a 3-4 OLB," Rang wrote.Baalke did not disagree that Smith has some stiffness, but added, "He has unique flexibility to get his body into certain points." Baalke noted that Smith needs to work on keeping his pads low. "He gets high at times," Baalke said. "In the (NFL), he has to learn to come off the ball lower." Over the next several days, we'll cover what Baalke had to say about each of the 49ers' draft picks, along with a short video from inside the team meeting room. The actual coaches film, however, cannot be shown due to an agreement the NFL has with the college ranks.
The 49ers today promoted Jeff Ferguson to director of football operations and sports medicine. Ferguson, who has served as the team's head athletic trainer since 2006, now oversees the 49ers strength and conditioning program, as well as team logistics, equipment and video operations departments."Over the past five seasons, Jeff has proven to all of us at the 49ers that he is a highly capable administrator," Baalke said. "Jeff has always done an exceptional job of caring for our players and coaches, and has a way of bringing the people around him together for a common goal. In his new role, that is ultimately what he is charged with."

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

C.J. BEATHARD
Position: Quarterback
College: Iowa
Height: 6-2
Weight: 219
Selection: Third round, No. 104 overall

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers traded back into the end of the third round to select a quarterback to join Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley on the 49ers' roster.

General manager John Lynch's fourth trade of the draft netted the team the grandson of legendary NFL personnel man Bobby Beathard. His grandson, C.J., joins the 49ers after a four-year career at Iowa. Beathard completed 58.6 percent of his passes last season with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Beathard was not generally expected to be chosen within the first two days of the draft. He was the sixth quarterback selected, falling behind Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Deshone Kizer and Davis Webb.

"They won't regret it," Beathard said on a conference call with the Bay Area media.

The 49ers traded up with the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings had the No. 104 pick, and called the 49ers to see if they were interested in a trade. After some consideration, the 49ers decided to move up from No. 109 while also giving the Vikings a seventh-round pick at No. 219.

"Might he have been there at 109? That’s what we had to weigh," 49ers John Lynch said. "But at the end of the day, we felt like it was worth it to be able to go to bed knowing that we had a player that we liked and want the opportunity develop at the quarterback position."

And that's what coach Kyle Shanahan plans on doing. He said Beathard is not coming to the team this season to compete with Hoyer for the starting job.

"We’re bringing him in here to develop him and give him a chance, but just like any other position, everyone competes," Shanahan said. "Brian is our starting quarterback and, right now, Matt Barkley is our second. And I look at him to come in and be our third with us only having three on the roster.

"By no means did we come into this draft thinking we’re going to get a guy to compete with Brian."

Shanahan said Beathard and Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman were the two quarterbacks in the draft who ran offenses in college most similar to the offense he will install with the 49ers.

"One thing that helps is being able to see guys play the way you’re going to ask them to play," Shanahan said. "It helps being at Iowa and watching the system he’s in. It’s easier to see to watch him over the years. He’s a three-year starter. He’s led his team to a bunch of wins, especially in 2015 when they had a better team and he played unbelievable."

As a junior at Iowa, Beathard completed 61.6 percent of his pass attempts for 2,809 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. 

"He’s a leader. He’s tough. He processes very well," Shanahan said. "He's extremely accurate and he lives and dies football."

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

AHKELLO WITHERSPOON
Position: Cornerback
College: Colorado
Height: 6-2 3/4
Weight: 193
Selection: Third round, No. 66 overall

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, a Sacramento native, in the third round of the NFL draft with the No. 66 overall pick.

“Being close to home is an incredible opportunity, as well as the type of defense they play -- press man, up in your face,” Witherspoon said. “When I came in for a visit, they were asking me if I’ve adopted that role and if I’d be willing to continue that. And I said, ‘Absolutely.’

“It’s an opportunity to play for such a great organization, close to home, with such a savvy defensive mentality. I think it’s going to be a great place for me.”

The 49ers were also scheduled to have the next pick, but traded the selection at No. 67 for the New Orleans Saints’ second-round pick in next year’s draft, as well as a seventh-round selection (No. 229 overall) this year. The 49ers now have 10 picks in next year’s draft.

The Saints used that pick at No. 67 to select Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara.

Witherspoon began his college career at Sacramento City. He played his final three college seasons at Colorado. He started 12 games last season and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Witherspoon led the nation with 22 pass breakups. He recorded one interception -- a game-saving pick in the end zone to preserve a 41-38 victory over Oregon. A pre-med student majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, he said he aspires to be a doctor after his football career.

But Witherspoon said he is committed to football and promised the 49ers during his visit to Santa Clara that he will make huge strides over the next few years as he continues to develop as a player.