NFL scouting combine Q&A with Trent Baalke

NFL Combine Q&A -- 49ers GM Trent Baalke

NFL scouting combine Q&A with Trent Baalke
February 21, 2013, 2:45 pm
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Did we get what we expected? That's to be determined. There's a lot of years left in those guys' playing careers.
—49ers GM Trent Baalke

Editor's note: 49ers GM Trent Baalke met with the media Thursday to answer questions at the NFL scouting combine. Here is the full transcript of his session on the podium at Lucas Oil Stadium:

On whether Colin Kaepernick's success means there will be more mobile QBs in the league:
Baalke: "I think teams are paying more attention to it obviously, but I have no idea. I'm not going to try to guess what 31 other teams are doing. But he certainly puts a little bit more pressure on the defense."

On whether the read-option will stick around longer than the Wildcat:
Baalke: "I think that certainly, once again, it stresses the defense. The more that person can do, the more stress it puts on. Peyton Manning puts a lot of stress on defenses, too. So you've got to meet the skill sets of your quarterback. As long as you do that, I think you've got a chance."

Did Colin seem franchise-caliber when you were scouting him in 2011?
Baalke: "Well, it's a lot easier to sit up here after a young man's had success and say, yes, you pictured that. But there's a lot of unknowns when you draft anybody. And you look at skills sets, you look at the kid as an individual, you look at the intangibles that they bring to the table and you try to see if they fit. If they fit what you're looking for in that particular player, in that particular position. And he's a young man who brought an awful lot to the table as you know. He came from an offense that's not a, quote, pro-style offense. And just a guy who our coaching staff really believed in, that we believed in from a personnel standpoint and it was just letting him develop and giving him an opportunity. But coach Harbaugh has done an outstanding job with him as has (quarterback's coach) Geep Chryst and (offensive coordinator) Greg Roman and he's still learning, still developing."

What do you want to see from receiver A.J. Jenkins?
Baalke: "Production. Like we do with all of players. We've always said, you go into the draft and draft guys and you know what their strong suits are, you know what their weaknesses are and then it's up them. And A.J.'s a young man that's worked awfully hard, is going to continue to work hard. I believe he's in Atlanta right now or on his way to Atlanta where the quarterback is and some of our other players. And they're going to go at it this offseason. And the biggest growth in players is always between Year 1 and Year 2. We expect that's going to happen with A.J. as we do all our young players."

[MAIOCCO: Jenkins has work ethic, skill set to succeed]

Have you had any conversations with Alex Smith?
Baalke: "We have. In fact, I was out to dinner with Liz and Alex when we were back from the Super Bowl. Had a great conversation, a great dinner. Just a chance to sit down with him and go through what our thoughts are and listen to what their thoughts were as a family. And really get an understanding of what direction we wanted to go."

[MAIOCCO: No timetable for Smith decision]

On Dashon Goldson:
Baalke: "We've always maintained that we want to keep as many of our core guys together as we can. So it's definitely a priority. Are we going to be able to it? We don't know that. We're going to work awfully hard to make that happen."

[MAIOCCO: 49ers undecided on franchise tag]

On the lack of production from the 2012 draft class:
Baalke: "I think it was coach Belichick or coach Parcells years ago who said, if you're getting a ton of production and you're having a lot of guys make the team from your draft class, you're probably not in a position to play in a Super Bowl. So maybe there is something to that. I don't know. But we feel very good about the class. We didn't get a lot of production from the class. But if you look at the players we drafted and the positions we drafted, they were coming into some loaded depth at certain positions."

More on the 2012 class:
Baalke: "Once again, we feel very good about … And I think the question always comes back to the higher picks. We feel very good about A.J. We feel very good about LaMichael James. We feel good about that group of guys. Joe Looney, who came off of an injury into an offensive line that's a pretty good group. So we weren't expecting a ton of production, to be honest with you. Did we get what we expected? That's to be determined. There's a lot of years left in those guys' playing careers."

What's the secret to hitting on third-day picks?
Baalke: "I don't know that I have a magic answer for what the key is. You set your board, you work diligently at it, you try to find football players. We've always tried to let the film speak for us. The height, the weight, the speed, the combine is nice - it's a part of the picture, but it's a small part of the picture. The big part of the picture is the film and what they've put on film over their careers."

On the unusual timing of Tom Gamble's move to Philadelphia:
Baalke: "There's a lot that went into that decision. Tom and I have been friends for a long time and have worked together for an awful long time. It was a chance for him to get home. It certainly is a difficult time to lose someone, especially of Tom's caliber. But at the same time, sometimes in life you have to make those decisions. You've got to let people go home. It was something that him and I have talked about for over a year. It came up again. Through those decisions, we were able to allow that to happen. Tough timing? Obviously. But I think that both sides feel good that the decision was made."

What he'll miss about Gamble:
Baalke: "You miss an awfully loyal, awfully qualified individual that helps you set your board and helps you through free agency and the like. It's never one person. It's not me, it's not Jim. There's a bunch of qualified individuals – Joel Patten, Matt Malaspina, the rest of the scouts. We just got through 17 days of draft meetings and setting the board. It's never one. Just like we say with players – it's next man up, let's go."

How much are coaches involved in the draft process, and do you like to have a separation of church and state?
Baalke: "I don't know if we want to keep a separation of church and state. We're in this thing together. Coach Harbaugh – I have a lot of respect for his ability to evaluate talent, just as a I do with all of our quarterbacks. So it's a team approach. The coaches aren't sitting in the draft room with us, but at the same time there is a stage when they are going into the process. And that stage starts with the combine. So we look forward to bouncing things of each other. Because it's all about finding players that fit the system. That's all we're looking for. There's a lot of good players out there. This draft is no different than other drafts. But at the same time, you've got to get players that fit your system. There's going to be players that don't fit us whether it's from a character standpoint or a skill set standpoint. There's going to be players that don't fit us. So we're looking for the fit."

On Randy Moss:
Baalke: "Randy's a pro. I can't say enough good things about Randy. And I think if you ask anyone in our organization they would say the same thing. One of the first guys to work every day, one of the last to leave. A guy that takes great care of his body, that is probably one of the smartest football players if not the smartest football player I've been around. He grasped the offense very quickly and was one of the leaders in that room. So we're certainly happy that he was there. Is he going to return this year? I don't know that yet."

How will you use 14 selections?
Baalke: "Draft 'em. . . I don't know that we need 14 rookies. We need 14 good football players. We've always had the opinion of, we're not afraid to move up, we're not afraid to stand pat and pick where the selection is, and we're certainly not afraid to move back. We've been successful doing all of the above. How are we going to use them? That remains to be seen. But certainly we enjoy the fact that we're in the position to have 14."

On the dinner with Alex Smith:
Baalke: "It was excellent. It was Alex and his wife, Liz. We had a great meal, we had a great discussion. I can’t say enough good things. If you ask anyone in the organization, they’ll say the same thing. He is a pro's pro. Have nothing but great respect for him, his family. And we're certainly going to do everything in our power to make the best decision for everyone involved."

Is the option to trade him?
Baalke: "There's, uh, I think that's part of it. We're going to look at all options available. Are we going to trade him for sure? That hasn't been decided."

Will you look at a kicker in free agency?
Baalke: "We're going to be looking at every position in free agency. We're going to be looking at every position in the draft. And we're going to address the needs we have through one of those two options."

On whether Phil Dawson is an option:
Baalke: "Once again, we'll look at all options."

On the team's next step:
Baalke: "We're going to have to go back to work. It's an awfully good division. It's a competitive division, it's a physical division. All four teams play a physical brand of football. They play very well on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, there's a lot of play makers within the division. It's a well-coached division. In order to stay on top in that division, we've got to get better. We can't stay the same and we certainly can't take a step back because those other teams are coming. We have to have a good draft. We have to have a good free agency period. But we also have to go back to work. And that's a tough thing to do. Our guys are down a little bit, a little bit discouraged, a little bit disappointed. But we're certainly going to get back on the horse and ride. And I have complete confidence in our players to do that."

Courtesy San Francisco 49ers media services