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March 3, 2014
Blink: Baalke says draft snap judgments usually correct


Which college players have caught Trent Baalke's eye in the run-up to the draft? The notoriously tight-lipped 49ers general manager never would say. But he did reveal that it doesn't take him long to decide who makes his draft-day list and who gets crossed off.

"Have you ever read the book, 'Blink?'" Baalke said at the combine. "Keep it simple. The first time you look at a player, you're usually right."

The book, by Malcolm Gladwell, asserts that instant assessments, especially when made by someone with expertise in a field, are better and more accurate than long, deliberate ones. (Editorial: Gladwell makes this point in the first chapter and then makes the same point using less-convincing examples, over and over and over, in the remaining chapters).

Said Baalke last month: "Your gut is usually right. Through the process, you gather more and more information and you watch more and more film. And sometimes the process is so long and it's drawn out another two weeks that you end up talking yourself out of that first impression. So I always go back to the book 'Blink.' And if you've read it, you understand where I'm coming from. And if you haven't, you should. It's a great book."

That doesn't mean the 49ers' draft board won't change between now and May 8. The 49ers will attend pro-day workouts and host 20 or so draft-worth prospects at team headquarters. But at this stage, that information is more of the dotting-i's and crossing-t's variety. Baalke already knows who he likes. And he is so sure of himself that he often will trade ahead in the draft - including the first round - to grab his favorites.

Last month wasn't the first time he talked about 'Blink.' He did so two years ago as well. He used Aldon Smith, the team's surprise first-round pick in 2011, as an example. "Five minutes into the film last year my gut was sold that this guy was going to be a good football player," Baalke said at the time.

Smith, of course, is one of the best - if not the best -- young pass rushers in the league. But he also has been among the most troubled, missing five games last season after his second DUI arrest in two years.

Et cetera - National reports this morning say that Colin Kaepernick is seeking in excess of $18 million a year in his next contract. Yes, that's exactly what I wrote Friday.

* Today is the deadline for teams to use the franchise tag. The 49ers are not expected to trigger it. A natural candidate would have been kicker Phil Dawson. But because the Browns already tagged Dawson twice, he would be entitled to the amount of the franchise tag for quarterbacks if he is tagged a third time. Dawson had a great 2013 season, but he is not worth $17 million a year.

- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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