2013 NFL Draft: 49ers sitting on draft bounty of 15 picks
An Alex Smith trade (official March 12) would give San Francisco 15 draft picks.
Somewhere, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke could be doing the dance of joy.
The 49ers reportedly have agreed to trade backup quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs, according to CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman, for two second-round picks. The first of those -- No. 34 in the 2013 draft. The other is a second-rounder in 2014.
That brings San Francisco's staggering total to 15 selections (about six percent of the entire seven-round pool), a level of flexibility we haven't seen in recent years, even at the height of Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli's draft trade wizardry.
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There are 15 spots available on the Super Bowl runner-up's roster. Coach Jim Harbaugh said "obviously, we'll be more active" in this draft during his stick-and-move sparring session with media at the combine based solely on the quantity of picks (SF had seven picks in 2012).
Whether there is a move to be made in this draft or future years remains to be seen, but chasing upper-round selections in future years when they may need to replace more talent meshes with Baalke's spoken, "sustaning success" philosophy.
"We've also got a lot of good players on our team and just as a point of fact, we take all the players we've got on our team and love to see them develop and coach them to be the best players that they can be, so that there's no way that 14 players could come in and make the roster," Harbaugh said.
The roster needs will include quarterback now that Smith is gone. They could also roll the dice with a move up, or attempt to acquire a veteran -- hello, Percy Harvin? -- to make an impact immediately.
Here are the top three needs for the 49ers and possibilities for 2013:
Quarterback: With Alex Smith on his way out and Scott Tolzien not an ideal fit for the team's evolving offense, a backup quarterback capable of running the read option will be a priority. Arizona's Matt Scott is moving up draft boards after a very impressive combine. He threw the ball better than expected and is a wizard with the ball on the option. Scott (6-foot-2, 213) isn't Colin Kaepernick (6-foot-4, 233, 4.53 40) but he's similar as a high-upside athlete whose poor passing grades off of his college tape might have been overstated.
Defensive line: The linebacker corps is filthy, and that's considering team MVP Aldon Smith went almost one-third of the schedule without recording a sack and wasn't his studly self in the Super Bowl. The great need is up front. Defensive end Justin Smith turns 34 in September and is entering the final year of a six-year deal he signed as a free agent from Cincinnati in 2008. Isaac Sopoaga is also approaching creaky and the team's pass rush outside of Aldon Smith was not a strength.
Defensive back: When you have 15 picks, you can draft a kicker to replace David Akers without us defining it as a pressing need. Akers struggled so much during the year that Billy Cundiff was brought in to compete before the playoffs began. He'll need to be pushed again in training camp.
But the reason the 49ers found themselves in a 28-6 hole in the Super Bowl wasn't Akers or kick coverage units. It was poor play by cornerback Chris Culliver (yes, we remember he intercepted Matt Ryan in the NFC Championship) and the overall exposure of a safety group better at knockout hits than sideline-to-sideline range in coverage. Dashon Goldson, franchised as a free agent in 2012, might not return. The 49ers can embrace that this is one of the deepest defensive back groups in recent memory. At picks 31 and 34 (pending finalized Smith swap to Kansas City), they could find two readymade secondary starters. They also have their own second-round (61st overall) and two third-round picks; the 12th pick in that round from the Panthers and the Niners' own pick, 31st in round three.
--There are other roster hot spots to look at, namely wide receiver and running back. Mario Manningham won't be ready for training camp after suffering a torn ACL and Randy Moss isn't likely to return.
Running back Kendall Hunter is coming off of his own serious injury and Frank Gore hits the dreaded age of 30, the point at which most running backs begin experiencing diminished skills. LaMichael James, a rookie who fits best in a change-of-pace role, could hold down a niche but isn't the answer as the featured runner.
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