The San Francisco 49ers have a bevy of draft picks at their disposal heading into the 2013 NFL Draft. As it stands, they are expected to have 14 selections in all. Needless to say, general manager Trent Baalke and the Niners’ front office will have plenty of ammo to wheel and deal come draft weekend.
The insanely high amount of picks certainly isn’t bad news for San Francisco, but here’s the thing. As was the case last off-season, there won’t be many roster shakeups this spring and summer. There are only a few free agents, and the majority of this year’s starters will also be next year’s starters.
If the 49ers actually did draft 14 players, it’d be shocking to see half of them make the 2013 53-man roster. Or even the practice squad, for that matter.
It’s a good thing Baalke isn’t shy about finding trade partners on draft day. In fact, he’s damn good at it. How else do you think the Niners ended up with 14 picks in 2013? That’s quite the insurance plan in case things don’t go as hoped and the roster does need a revamping.
Baalke and the 49ers’ brass traded up in the second round to draft Colin Kaepernick two years ago. He’s now the franchise’s QB of the future and helped lead his team to Super Bowl XLVII having only nine previous starts under his belt.
The Niners made three separate trades in the 2012 NFL Draft as well. They’re not afraid to trade up, down, or even out of the draft completely in return for picks the following year. In fact, they still have to see what a trade of Alex Smith might bring in. Preferably an impact player (if possible), but likely even more draft picks, probably for 2014’s draft.
For a team loaded with All-Pro-caliber players, the 49ers actually have a handful of positions in need of help. Particularly on the defensive line and in the secondary. DE Justin Smith is going on 34 and will be coming off triceps surgery in 2013. Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga had a down year and is now an unrestricted free agent.
When Smith went down with an injury, the entire defense suffered. Sack-master Aldon Smith failed to record a sack over the final six games of the year (playoffs included) after feasting on opposing signal-callers 19.5 times over the first 13.
Chris Culliver had a terrible postseason (aside from one interception) as the No. 3 cornerback. Carlos Rogers hasn’t exactly lived up to his new deal. The 49ers would like to bring back Dashon Goldson to remain at free safety, but he’s looking to be locked up long term and not for chump change, either.
Each of these players will likely be in the Niners’ secondary for 2013, but a little extra competition wouldn’t hurt. And going back to the D-line, there may not be a better time to find Justin Smith’s replacement.
The 49ers have great players on defense, but the breathers they get during games are few and far between. Inside linebacker Larry Grant could start for some teams, but he saw just 21 defensive snaps in 2012 because Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are that good and that durable.
When you have more than a dozen draft picks to play with, the options are endless. Whether it be offense or defense, San Fran would be wise to trade up to take a player or two worthy of stealing a few snaps from a starter each game.
Or, they could try to trade for a proven starter leading up to the draft. Perhaps a big-play WR to pair with Michael Crabtree?. Kaepernick would like that. They should probably save a late-round pick for a kicker, though. David Akers needs some competition, or maybe even an immediate replacement.
Whatever they decide to do, the comforting truth for fans is that the 49ers already have a team capable of repeating as NFC Champions in 2013, and the surplus of picks will only strengthen it.