Q: You drafted two outside linebacker potential guys, was there a sense last year that, I don't want to say playing with fire, but it was risky to go into the season with just two outside linebackers or three outside linebackers?
Baalke: It's obviously always risky when your numbers aren't where you'd like them to be, but we've always said we're going to keep the best 53, the 53 guys that give us the best chance to win. This year we may be heavy at that position and light somewhere else. It all comes down to competition. Guys stepping up and proving they belong on the 53.
Q: You've been pretty busy the last two months crafting this roster. Do you feel that it's at a position right now where you're ready to go?
Baalke: Obviously, we feel like we're ready to go. You're always looking to tweak. We may not be done. Right now we're upstairs working hard on the undrafted free agent class. When that list comes out, I think you'll be surprised by some of the names on that. Our scouts, our coaches have done an excellent job with the recruitment process of getting guys to understand that this is a good place to be and a place that they're wanted at. Naturally, when a young man goes undrafted, there's a little bit of a letdown. What you have to do is coax him out of that letdown and let him know there's still a great landing spot for him, and a great place to come and compete. We're up there as we speak trying to get that accomplished as well.
Q: Your first pick in the fourth round, Joe Looney and Cam] Johnson are two guys that could have slipped through due to injuries. Looney with his foot and Johnson with sickle-cell anemia. Can you just talk about those two issues, if you have concerns with them going forward?
Baalke: We're not going to talk about any injury directly or anything. Could they have slipped through because of those reasons? Certainly. We obviously felt comfortable with their status and made the decision to draft them. Moving forward, we don't see that being a problem.
Q: You made some trades to get some picks for next year. What does that say about how you feel about the current talent this year?
Baalke: It's all about value. We turned the 92nd pick, went from 92 to 97, from 97 to 103, 103 out of that totally. We actually turned the 92nd pick into, I'd have to go back and think, but a third next year, a fifth next year, and three sixth round picks, two this year and one next year, and still got the player we were going to pick at 92. It's all about value. We feel good about the depth. It's about drafting players at the right value and also making sure they have a legitimate chance to make this football team.
Q: You mentioned the undrafted guys… Is WR Chris Owusu somebody that you would even consider at this point? I don't want to ask if he's somebody you're after, but was he wiped off your board?
Baalke: No, Chris wasn't wiped off our board. You've got to remember, he was cleared to play by the same group of doctors that work with us on a regular basis. He certainly was not off our board.
Q: You guys haven't drafted a defensive tackle in, I think, four or five years. Is there a specific reason for that?
Baalke: Couple of things. We did draft Ricky Jean [Francois] three years ago, so that was one that we did. Brought Justin [Smith] in as a free agent. Drafted Ray [McDonald] four years ago, I believe. So, we have drafted some. Then last year, to be quite honest, hit on two quality free agents in Ian [Williams] and [Demarcus] Dobbs. Both of those guys, we feel like, are high ceiling guys. They've done an excellent job as rookies, having an excellent offseason. Knock on wood, those guys are ready to go. The board, the value of the players have to be there. This year it was at other positions.
Q: The fourth rounder, Joe Looney, played center at the Senior Bowl. Do you want to see him play there with the 49ers or is that Jason Slowey's, backup center?
Baalke: The value is they can play both. They can play guard and center. We'll find where they fit best for us. We're very high on both of them. Obviously, Joe played at a higher level of competition, but Jason's a young man that has the traits that we're looking for, much like we saw in [Mike] Person and [Daniel] Kilgore last year. He's a young man that played left tackle in college and he's now going to move inside in the National Football League. Where they end up ultimately, that's for the coaches to decide. We just felt good about their traits and developing as interior linemen in the National Football League.
Q: Last year your offense and defense seemed to play at two different speeds. Your offense played a lot slower than your defense did. But with WR Randy Moss and WR A.J. Jenkins and RB LaMichael James, it looks like you addressed your team speed. How important was that to do to add some of that to your offensive team?
Baalke: You can never have enough explosive playmakers on a football team. Scoring is obviously a big part of this game, and our defense does play at a high level and plays fast. And we needed to add some pieces to the offense to allow us to do the same thing from an offensive perspective. We feel real good, and felt real good, about the guys that we had going into this draft, and these guys coming in we obviously feel very good about as well. It creates competition, and I can't say it enough, that's what this game's all about, is competing and developing this roster from the top down and the bottom up. And as those things come together, that's when you start to develop a team that we feel we can play long into the year with.
Q: What did you like about the first sixth round pick, S Trenton Robinson?
Baalke: He's a young man that plays the game fast and physical. He's an undersized guy that has a chip on his shoulder. He's been a standout special teams player there in his younger days within the program. Even though he's a smaller guy by size, he's not afraid to mix it up down low and has shown the ability to make some things happen in the back half as well. So, the versatility, the will to compete, all of those things we liked about him.
Q: He said that he went to Michigan State thinking that he would be a cornerback and then they switched him over. Is that the kind of thing you want to see in a free safety? Somebody who has cornerback experience? Who has those coverage skills?
Baalke: Well, it helps. You obviously want your… in this day and age, the way the game has changed, you want guys on the field that can cover. The old box safety that you used to hear about, the guy that would invert down and play the run, the way the offense is playing now, they've kind of made that guy a dinosaur in today's game. If he's on the field, he's easy to find. And what you want to do is create a balanced attack defensively so you don't have to get into all these sub-packages and change personnel. Because when you've got someone out there an offense can attack, if they've got the ability to do that with their base package guys like we do a little bit, it makes it hard to defend.
Q: Frank Gore said that when he was hurt at the end of the 2010 season, you brought him up and had him look at some tape of college running backs. He said one of those guys was LaMichael James. Do you remember Frank's scouting report?
Baalke: I don't. I honestly don't. I remember him watching him, but you'd have to talk to Frank about it on what he said. I know he liked him. Frank's got a good eye. He really does. Frank's a football guy. He studies the game and enjoys watching running backs and critiquing running backs. He came into this league with a chip on his shoulder, you all remember because of where he was drafted. And he certainly lived up to every bit of that. So, he's a fun guy to talk to and I'm sure when he gets back into town, he'd enjoy talking to you about it.
He said he only thought you should have to watch one game and that if you had to watch more than one game it got a little boring.
Baalke: Well, Frank feels he can identify a good player – he takes the book Blink to the extreme. Frank watches two clicks and he's got the guy down. But no, once again, Frank's passionate about the game, loves to study it, and you can give him a whole list of running backs. Now I don't know if he wants to do all the other positions, but he'll certainly watch all the running backs.
Q:With LB Cam Johnson, did you go back to the I guess the 2009 tape when he was in the 3-4 defense playing the position he's theoretically going to play for you guys?
Baalke: We watched some of that and we watched him move around at the Combine. We watched him move around at the Senior Bowl. I actually went to one of his games live this year, I think it was the Maryland game that I was at. So, we've had plenty of opportunity to see Cam, and he's a young man that's got a lot of talent. I think Mike Mayock, after he got drafted Mike I think said he had him in his top 100. The guy obviously has talent. And like we told him, he's another guy that should come into the National Football League with a chip on his shoulder. He's a guy that believed he should have been a much higher pick. For whatever reason teams passed him over, and you like that. You like that about guys, come in here feeling that they were looked past and have a chip on their shoulder and are ready to compete for a position.
Baalke's post-draft takes
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