As you might imagine, quarterback talk dominated Trent Baalke's pre-draft media luncheon this afternoon. The general manager was understandably vague on most topics, but one thing continues to be clear: The 49ers really want Alex Smith back in 2011. As The Bee reported last week, Smith has a standing one-year contract offer from the 49ers to return this year.
Asked why, considering that Smith, like any other free-agent quarterback, would have to get used to a new offense, Baalke said the following: "I think there are a lot of reasons. He understands this building. He understands the system that coach (Jim Harbaugh) is interested in running from a dynamic standpoint. They obviously hit it off in their discussions. I think there's a lot of comfort in having somebody - especially in the situation that we're in - when we have so many unknowns."
"... Coach is very comfortable with him. I'm very comfortable with him. Will Alex choose to come back here? You're going to have to get him on the phone to ask him that question. But he's certainly a guy that we'd like to throw into the mix."
The NFL's offseason of uncertainty can't be overerstated when it comes to Smith and the 49ers. Baalke stated today that if he had his druthers, any quarterback they draft this year would sit on the bench for a season "and watch a true pro do it."
This year, teams might not have a choice. The current lockout promises to wipe away many - if not all - of the offseason practice sessions that would be invaluable to a rookie passer who is learning learning the offense. Furthermore, a number of the quarterbacks available to the 49ers - Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton - worked in spread or spread-like offenses that will require a steeper learning curve. The 49ers will be able to fly their top draft picks to Santa Clara, but because of the lockout they are prohibited from giving them a playbook or any sort of coaching at that time.
The 49ers have taken long looks at all of those passers. Dalton, Gabbert, Ryan Mallett, Jake Locker and Christian Ponder each have visited the 49ers facility. Harbaugh, meanwhile, had private workouts with Kaepernick and Ricky Stanzi.
Baalke said that Newton, who many think will be the top pick in the draft, had "Ben Roethlisberger-like stature in the pocket. ... he's a piece of clay that needs to be molded."
â€¢ Baalke said he and his staff will finalize the team's draft board this weekend. Today was the last day any NFL team could meet with draft prospects at their facilities. They can still work out players off site.
â€¢ Baalke said the 49ers hosted about 27 players in the last few weeks. They are permitted to bring in 30.
â€¢ Fifty local players, including running backs Roy Helu, Taiwan Jones and Owen Marecic, are taking part in the local pro day. Two defensive players, Stanford OLB Thomas Keiser and Cal CB Darian Hagan, did not show up.
-- Matt Barrows