Acting GM Trent Baalke held a pre-draft press conference with the beatwriters today. It probably won't surprise you to hear this, but he held his cards veeeery close to the vest. Obviously general managers don't want to reveal too much in advance of the draft. Baalke, however, is in the unique position of running his first-ever draft and is ostensibly auditioning for the permanent job. He's also dealt with reporters exactly twice in his career. All of which is to say he is taking zero chances and is being as guarded as possible with the media.
In the past, for example, Scot McCloughan would reveal how many players had been given first-round grades. Baalke would not. "I'd rather not discuss that in terms of what number or how many guys we have above the line that are rated in the first round," he said.
Asked which positions were particularly strong this year, Baalke said: "I think it's a strong draft offensively and defensively. I'd rather not tell you what our belief is in terms of going into the draft and tip our hat in any way, shape or form. I'd tell you this: There's good football players on both sides of the ball at virtually every position that will make a team in the National Football League and be productive football players."
Baalke also was positive about every player he was asked about, including one, Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant, who reportedly has been taken off some other teams' draft boards. That is, he was careful not to tip his hand about any player.
On Bryant's speed: "You put on the film, the film says, yes. You take the stopwatch, the stopwatch says no. We believe in what the film tells us. ... We have no problem with Dez Bryant's character. None whatsoever."
On Fresno State RB Ryan Mathews. "We like Ryan. Obviously his production speaks for itself. ... He's performed at every level. We feel he's an awfully good back. We feel he's going to have a good pro career."
On Cal RB Jahvid Best: "Right now his medical history has no bearing on our decision on whether we're going to draft him or not."
On drafting a quarterback: "We're not going to rule out anything at this point. But I want to reiterate that Alex Smith is our quarterback. And we have total confidence to get the job done and we're looking forward to going into the season with him."
On whether Idaho guard Mike Iupati can play tackle: "We value Mike as a good football player and a good offensive lineman. Where he fits within the offensive line - whether it's tackle, whether it's guard - we're going to keep that opinion to ourselves at this point. But we think he's an awfully good football player."
Some other tidbits ....
On the offensive tackle class:
"I think you can realistically expect five to six offensive tackles to be gone in the first round. Now will that happen, I don't know. .... I think if you look at history, the better tackles always have gone in the draft. It's a need, it's a position that teams place a lot of value on in the National Football League, especially the left tackle position."
On whether the 49ers are seeking a fast running back:
"Basically my philosophy is this - you're trying to add good football players at every position. And if there's a player there that fits that - would we like to have him? Are we searching for that type of player? Not necessarily. If the value of the pick's there and he's the best player on the board, we'll certainly look in that direction."
On the new three-day format for the draft:
"I like the new format because it gives you the chance to reevaluate yourself not once but twice. In the past, you got through the first three rounds, you had a chance that evening or the next morning - depending on whether you were an east coast team or a west coast team - to kind of take another look, reevaluate exactly what you were going to do, position yourself to possibly move up or trade back. Now you get two opportunities to do that."
On nose tackles capable of playing in the 49ers system:
"It's a very solid draft for that position."
On what he wants to accomplish:
"When you're drafting in the first three rounds, you're hoping to get a starter. .... Now does that mean they're going to start Day 1? No. But when you're drafting a guy in rounds 1-3, you're hoping at some point within their career that they're going to develop into a starter and you're also hoping that in the 4-7 rounds you also hit on a couple of those guys, a guy like Dashon Goldson for instance."
On overall philosophy:
"My philosophy is just to be patient, to sit back and ... if you're prepared, you're able to do things. And I think we are prepared. As an organization, once again, we feel very good about where we're at."
-- Matt Barrows