General manager Trent Baalke and the San Francisco 49ers aren’t going to share much meaningful information regarding their scouting process leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft. We do know, however, that Gold Helmets will play a significant role in deciding the names they want called when they’re on the clock.
In case you’ve yet to hear the story behind the 49ers’ front office and these Gold Helmets, allow me to enlighten. Part of the Niners pre-draft strategy involves digging deep and finding athletes who stand out in the areas a tape measure can’t reach. We see plenty of prospects come into the NFL with freakish size and mind-blowing amounts of athleticism, but that’s only a portion of the equation.
You’ve got to have the intangibles to go with it to succeed at the game’s highest level. The 49ers pay special attention to the intangibles of each prospect, and they slap a Gold Helmet on their draft board next to the name of each player who stands out in that aspect.
Are those athletes going to remain dedicated to their new profession so much that you can count on them 365 days a year? Do they have the drive to enforce a strict off-season diet and strenuous workout regimen upon themselves when there are no team officials around to schedule workouts and such? Do they possess a high football IQ and an instinctive manner on the gridiron? Do they think of watching film as a chore or a key factor in honing their craft?
The Niners aren’t exactly shying away from those physical freaks in the draft, either. Just look at Colin Kaepernick and Aldon Smith, two members of the 2011 draft class. One thing about that class, though, is that all but one player drafted by the 49ers that year earned a Gold Helmet sticker next to their name on Baalke and Co.’s draft board. Meaning, not only were they impressive from a physical standpoint, but the Niners’ brass felt they excelled in many of the previously discussed factors that you won’t catch upon first glance.
San Francisco is looking for players with strong work ethics and leadership qualities. Guys who can help shape the franchise for the better after players like Frank Gore, Patrick Willis and Joe Staley have moved on. Basically, guys who will do anything it takes to win a championship. That’s where this franchise is at now, and those are the players they want in their locker room.
Of course, that should be the main goal of every NFL franchise. But some owners are lost in a world where star power and raw athleticism outweigh everything else. They’re too impatient to draft smart, resist overpaying in free agency and go the extra mile to find the true character of the people they are essentially preparing to hire.
The 49ers, as of now, are doing that and doing it well. Youngsters like Kaepernick, Smith, Kendall Hunter and others are quickly expanding their roles on the team and developing impressive leadership qualities in the meantime.
And they are exactly the type of players the Niners will be seeking out leading up to the draft in late April.