Sports journalism rule No. 1: If an NFL personnel guy tells you something within a month of the draft, take it with a smidgen of salt. This is the silly season in the NFL. Up is down. Left is right. Teams schedule visits with players they have no intention of drafting. They ignore the players that make their hearts leap. Which is why you have to look at everything acting GM Trent Baalke said yesterday with a skeptical eye. And yet ...
His answer to a question about running backs was very interesting. When Scot McCloughan was asked in February whether the 49ers could select a running back who complements Frank Gore, he said the following:
We could. Yeah, we could. Again, I think it comes down to what will be his role with us. Is there any special teams value involved in it? Again, where he's taken in the draft is going to say what the role is going to be and how soon we think he can help us. Frank Gore is a really good football player for us and we expect him to be a good football player for us for the next couple of years. But we also understand that we can't count on him forever. And if you start limiting his carries now somewhat - he doesn't like it - but if we protect him. What our vision is is to play 16 (games) and get to the playoffs. We need him to be healthy for him to that.
Asked a similar question Friday, Baalke went a little further, saying this:
... If you look at the backfields that are really starting to have a lot of success, it's not only the two (-pronged approach), it's the three-back system that's becoming even a little bit more ... you look at Dallas' situation with a bell-cow back and another guy that can come in and still have some bell-cow ability in Tashard Choice, a little bit different style than Marion Barber, and then you throw Felix Jones in the mix, of course completely different. They all have different sets of skills but they're all high level guys and it's very difficult to defense. I think the more you have complementary styles, the harder it is to prepare for.
The 49ers are two-thirds of the way to having a near-duplicate setup. Gore is the "bell cow" while Glen Coffee is a guy with "bell-cow ability." What they're missing is a speedster like Jones. Now where on earth could they find someone with similar abilities? Think, Barrows, think!
Marion Barber, 4th round, 2005
Tashard Choice, 4th round, 2008
Felix Jones, 1st round (22nd overall), 2008
Frank Gore, 3rd round, 2005
Glen Coffee, 3rd round, 2009
-- Matt Barrows