NFL Wire News

After Armstead, 49ers focused on offense


The Sports Xchange

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said the team had two guys in mind when it agreed to trade down two spots, from 15th to 17th, in the first round in order to acquire two additional picks from the San Diego Chargers.

Obviously, the guy the 49ers drafted with the 17th pick — Oregon defensive end Arik Armstead — was one of them. Baalke would not divulge the other.

“Arik was the one that we were coveting,” he said. “But at the same time, you never trade back unless you have an alternative plan in mind. We felt good about two players.”

The Chargers used the No. 15 pick to select Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon at a position where the 49ers had no interest.

–Usually one of the most active teams in the draft, the 49ers made just two other minor deals during the three-day draft.

As they did in the first round, the 49ers traded out of their fifth-round slot (No. 151 overall) to get a later pick in the fifth (165) and a seventh-rounder (244) from the Indianapolis Colts.

The 49ers used those two picks on Clemson punter/kicker Bradley Pinion, the first kicker of any sort drafted this year, and Florida guard Trent Brown.

The 49ers sent their seventh-round pick, No. 246 overall, to Dallas for a 2016 sixth-rounder.

–All told, the 49ers drafted 10 players. What began as a run on defenders completely flip-flopped by the end of the third day.

The 49ers wound up taking two guards, two tight ends, one running back, one wide receiver, one defensive end, one outside linebacker, one safety and one punter/kicker.

–According to sources, the 49ers had signed five undrafted players to deals by the end of the day Saturday.

They were South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson, Utah wide receiver Dres Anderson, Duke wide receiver Isaac Blakeney, Auburn offensive tackle Patrick Miller and Michigan State defensive end Marcus Rush.

–The 49ers began April 30, the first day of the draft, with just the 15th pick. But they nonetheless were the first team to make a key roster addition that day.

About eight hours before Tampa Bay made the first pick of the draft, the 49ers announced the signing of veteran inside linebacker Philip Wheeler to a one-year deal.

Wheeler was considered a prize free-agent prospect just two seasons ago, when he got a five-year, $26 million deal from the Miami Dolphins.

The 30-year-old was employed for just two of those seasons by the Dolphins, who paid him $13 million. He started only four games last year.

Wheeler will get a chance to compete for a starting spot in San Francisco, where the club has lost Patrick Willis and Chris Borland to retirements since the end of the 2014 season.

Standout NaVorro Bowman, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, and Michael Wilhoite, a 16-game starter in 2014, enter the offseason as the favorites to be the club’s starters in 2015.

A closer look at the 49ers’ picks:

Round 1/17 — Arik Armstead, DE, 6-7, 292, Oregon

The 49ers under Trent Baalke believe in smooth transitions from retired players to their apprentices. Running back Carlos Hyde and guard Brandon Thomas are projected as starters this season, for example, after waiting in the wings behind Frank Gore and Mike Iupati, respectively. The 49ers hope they can be equally patient with Armstead, a raw, powerful talent who is considered much more polished against the run than the pass. That patience will be tested if veteran Justin Smith decides to retire this offseason.

Round 2/46 — Jaquiski Tartt, S, 6-2, 221, Samford

If Armstead was selected to eventually replace Smith, then it’s logical that Tartt could be the next man up when veteran safety Antoine Bethea is no longer around. Like Bethea, Tartt appears best suited to be a strong safety because of his strength in run support. The high-school teammate of last year’s first-round pick, Jimmie Ward, seems refreshingly amenable to being a leader on special teams — a high priority for the 49ers in recent years — until his time comes to be a starter.

Round 3/79 — Eli Harold, OLB, 6-3, 247, Virginia

The 49ers consider Harold to be a little like their two current front-line outside linebackers — Aldon Smith and Aaron Lynch. They’d like nothing better than for him to be a lot like them. The 49ers are committed to Smith, who has had more than his fair share of off-the-field issues, for only one more year, so Harold might not have to wait long before getting a shot to start. Like Smith and Lynch, his strength is getting to the quarterback.

Round 4/117 — Blake Bell, TE, 6-6, 252, Oklahoma

Some had projected the 49ers would be in the market for a backup quarterback in the middle rounds. Maybe this is him. Bell did play quarterback at Oklahoma until shifting over to tight end last season. Like first-round pick Armstead, Bell enters the NFL with far more impressive numbers in his measurables than in his collegiate production. He has the size to contribute right away as a run-blocking tight end, which would complement the talents of incumbent Vernon Davis.

Round 4/126 — Mike Davis, RB, 5-9, 217, South Carolina

A power runner with a low center of gravity. Sound familiar, 49ers fans? Davis has the look of a younger Frank Gore, who used the hide-behind-the-guards style to earn a featured spot in the 49ers’ record book. The 49ers enter the offseason happy with their tandem of Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush. But both are injury-prone, which could provide Davis an opportunity sooner rather than later.

Round 4/132 — DeAndre Smelter, WR, 6-2, 226, Georgia Tech

Nothing about Smelter says “draft me,” especially in the middle rounds. He was a baseball player at Georgia Tech until forced to switch sports because of a shoulder injury. He then became a wideout on a run-oriented team and proceeded to blow out his knee during the 2014 season. Alas, Baalke has a history of taking a risk on high-potential athletes who need an NFL “redshirt” season. Smelter will certainly be able to learn his craft from a good one in veteran Anquan Boldin.

Round 5/165 — Bradley Pinion, P/K, 6-5, 229, Clemson

Pinion left Clemson a year early in hopes of being the first kicker selected. He was. That’s a credit to his versatility. He excels at pinning opponents deep with his directional punting and making them start from the 20-yard line with his ability to sail kickoffs out of the end zone. The latter might be where he cracks the 2015 lineup. Veterans Andy Lee (punter) and Phil Dawson (field-goal kicker) seem to have locks on their jobs.

Round 6/190 — Ian Silberman, G, 6-5, 294, Boston College

The Florida transfer played tackle in college but projects to guard in the NFL. The 49ers had one such player last season — Jonathan Martin — who saw a lot of time at tackle after he had been moved inside earlier in his career. Martin was a Jim Harbaugh guy who won’t be back. But he did prove useful because of his versatility, which gives Silberman a chance to stick.

Round 7/244 — Trent Brown, G/T, 6-9, 355, Florida

If nothing else, Brown is huge. Known for his long arms, he is considered a run-blocking guard who might be able to move out to tackle because of his size. As with Silberman, the 49ers are hoping Brown could be a replacement for the versatile Martin. The sixth- and seventh-round picks likely will compete in camp for that spot.

Round 7/254 — Rory Anderson, TE, 6-4, 244, South Carolina

The second tight end selected by the 49ers, Anderson isn’t at all like the first one, Oklahoma’s Blake Bell. Anderson made a career out of catching the ball at South Carolina and is seen as a down-the-field threat similar to Vernon Davis. Anderson is still recovering from surgery on a torn triceps that occurred during the 2014 season.

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