SANTA CLARA — Trent Baalke realizes the importance of this draft for new coach Chip Kelly.
That means finding the right pieces for Kelly’s up-tempo, hard-running style of offense. While Baalke won’t specifically grade his recent drafts, he does acknowledge the need to be better.
“We certainly have had some misses. You never like to see that,” he said. “But I do believe there’s a lot of good young players.”
San Francisco has 12 scheduled picks, starting with No. 7 next Thursday night.
Under Kelly, the 49ers hope to begin immediately bouncing back from a 5-11 season and second straight year out of the playoffs.
“One thing coach is very good at is adapting to what he has,” Baalke said. “Feel good about the guys on our roster. Feel that we can go win some games.”
Here are some things to watch for when the 49ers are in the draft room:
For now, at least, San Francisco has Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert as its top two quarterbacks, each having started eight games last season.
Whether Kaepernick is traded after all remains to be seen, and the 49ers might look to draft a quarterback as a Plan B in case he departs.
“I wouldn’t want to put a percentage on it. We’re certainly not out of the market, if that helps,” Baalke said. “We’ve looked hard at all these quarterbacks in the draft.”
Kaepernick has been around while rehabilitating from three surgeries, attending team meetings during the voluntary portion of the offseason program. He was granted permission to meet with the Denver Broncos after his agents requested a trade during the offseason, and he visited with Broncos GM John Elway late last month at his Denver home.
Kaepernick is due to earn $11.9 million guaranteed this year.
The 49ers aren’t waiting on retired right tackle Anthony Davis to make decisions about an NFL return as they look to build their offensive line through the draft. Baalke called it “a good draft for offensive tackles.”
Davis, who walked away from football last June at age 25 following a head injury, said April 1 on Twitter he plans to file for reinstatement later this year. Davis was the 49ers’ first-round draft choice, the 11th overall pick, in 2010 out of Rutgers. He was affected by a concussion late in the 2014 season.
On the defensive side of the ball, Baalke is confident in his ability to draft linebackers given the team’s strong history at that position.
There’s one major focus going forward.
“You build your team to get off the field on third down,” Baalke said.
The 49ers’ run of arrests and off-the-field problems from 2012-14 — an NFL-high 12 arrests during that span — have them spending extra money on evaluating potential draft picks.
Not that it’s a perfect process.
“We’ve stuck a lot of money into resources, into player engagement, more money into identifying the potential risks prior to the draft. So, yeah, we’ve done a lot,” Baalke said. “Is it helping? I think it is. The players have been doing a very good job representing themselves and this organization for well over a year now. There’s always risk. Who are we kidding?”
WORKING WITH KELLY
Baalke and Kelly are getting along just fine, thank you.
FOX color commentator and former player Brian Baldinger recently reported Baalke and Kelly already have their issues working together, which would point to potential problems on draft day.
Completely false, Baalke insists.
“I can tell you emphatically that is total B.S.,” Baalke said. “That’s all I can say. We’ve had absolutely a wonderful start to this relationship, and there’s really nothing else to say. He’s coaching ball, and we’re up there in draft room going to work. It couldn’t be better. Where Baldy got that from, what his angle was, it’s ridiculous. And you can quote me on that.”