49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

May 21, 2014
The 49ers blog has moved

The blog can now be found at: http://www.sacbee.com/sf49ers/

The RSS feed for the blog is now at: http://www.sacbee.com/sf49ers/index.rss

Please come see us in our new home.

May 21, 2014
Aldon Smith pleads no contest to charges; sentencing in July


Aldon Smith on Wednesday pleaded no contest to three felony weapons charges as well as misdemeanor DUI charges in Santa Clara County Superior Court. The 49ers' linebacker must appear again on July 25 when he will be sentenced. The 49ers are expected to report for training camp earlier that week.

The case against Smith, 24, had two parts: DUI charges involving an incident in which he drove his pickup truck through and came to rest in the front yard of a San Jose residence, and weapons charges relating to three semi-automatic rifles found in his bedroom following an out-of-control party in 2012. Smith allegedly purchased some of the guns legally during a 49ers road trip to Arizona but did not register or modify them upon his return to California.

Smith faces anything from probation to four years, four months in prison, which is the maximum sentence for the weapons charges.

"We are aware that Aldon entered a plea today in a case that we have closely monitored," the 49ers' general manager, Trent Baalke, said in a statement. "Today was an important step towards bringing that situation to a resolution. Any further questions concerning today's hearing should be directed to his attorney."

May 21, 2014
49ers' Aldon Smith due in court today


A hearing for Aldon Smith is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today in San Jose, and a plea bargain is a possibility. The case includes two separate events: September DUI charges in which the 49ers linebacker drove his truck through and came to rest in the front yard of a San Jose residence, as well as weapons charges relating to three semi-automatic rifles found in his bedroom following an out-of-control party in 2012. Smith allegedly purchased some of the guns legally during a 49ers road trip to Arizona but did not register or modify them upon his return to California.

The ongoing case does not include April's incident at Los Angeles International Airport in which Smith allegedly said he had a bomb as he went through security. Witnesses said Smith was acting strangely at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter prior to security, and police suspected he had been drinking. The L.A. City Attorney's office is considering the case and has not filed charges at this time. Smith told CSN Bay Area recently that he looked forward to the truth being revealed through the legal process. "A lot of these things are being painted in a picture that's not true," he told the web site.

Smith, who has 42 sacks in 43 games played with the 49ers, could be suspended by the NFL. That suspension, however, likely would not be decided upon until after the LAX case is resolved. The 49ers, meanwhile, recently vowed to stick with Smith, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2011 draft, then followed that up by picking up an option in his contract that will pay Smith $9.75 million next season if he is on the roster in March.

Smith, 24, sat out five games last season while attending an alcohol-rehabilitation facility recommended by the NFL players' association. The 49ers won all five contests, albeit mostly against teams with losing records, with Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier filling in at right outside linebacker. Both players are back this year. The 49ers also added a draft pick, Aaron Lynch, at the position.

-- Matt Barrows

May 20, 2014
Happy returns? Ellington, other rookies working on special teams skills


Wide receiver Bruce Ellington has been handling both kick and punt returns during the 49ers' recent "football school" and he expects to do both at the team's rookie minicamp that begins Friday. "It's something I'm working on, and hopefully I can get in this year and make some plays," said Ellington, a fourth-round pick from South Carolina.

At this point last year, Kyle Williams was the team's most experienced return man with LaMichael James serving as his understudy. Williams was released during the 2013 season while James, unhappy with his workload at running back, has stayed away from the 49ers' voluntary practices so far and is open to a trade.

Both general manager Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh have lauded James' return skills in recent weeks and have spoken as if he will be part of the team in 2014. Still, they must come up with alternatives this offseason even if James remains.

Ellington appears to be a top candidate even though mostly handled kickoffs at South Carolina. He returned three punts total, all of them in 2013. Ellington said former SMU cornerback Kenneth Acker, a fifth-round pick, also has been returning punts in recent weeks and that second-round pick Carlos Hyde, a running back from Ohio State, has been among those handling kickoffs. Acker handled 14 punt returns at SMU; Hyde had two kickoff returns at Ohio State in 2011.

Aside from James, receiver Devon Wylie (Granite Bay High) and cornerback Perrish Cox have experience returning punts in the NFL. Neither is eligible to attend the weekend rookie minicamp.

-- Matt Barrows

May 19, 2014
Jerry Rice Jr. to take part in 49ers minicamp; Marcus Lattimore can take part, too

A year after Joe Montana's son tossed passes in a 49ers rookie minicamp, Jerry Rice's boy will get a chance to catch them. Jerry Rice Jr., who played at UNLV and who took part in the team's local pro day last month, will be one of the receivers in San Francisco's rookie minicamp, which runs Friday through Sunday.

Although he's not technically a rookie, running back Marcus Lattimore also is eligible to take part in the rookie minicamp because he did not earn any pension credit last year, which was spent on the non-football injury list. Offensive tackle Luke Marquardt, who was dealing with a foot injury a year ago, also can take part in the weekend session. Offensive tackle Carter Bykowski, receiver Chuck Jacobs and defensive lineman Mike Purcell also are eligible to participate.

Rice Jr., who walked on at UCLA before transferring to UNLV, was not drafted earlier this month. But he got a chance to take part in the Ravens' rookie minicamp last week and impressed the head coach. "He doesn't have his dad's size, but he sure got his athleticism," John Harbaugh told reporters. "He runs in a real similar way. He's got that West Coast offense down. He's probably had that playbook since he was in the cradle ... Very good hands, real smooth athlete. He did a real nice job."

Fourth-round draft pick Bruce Ellington also will take part in the minicamp at receiver. In addition to Rice Jr., the team is likely to sign more players for the weekend on a tryout basis.

-- Matt Barrows

May 19, 2014
Q&A: Who might the 49ers dangle as offseason trade bait?

Answ: To me, these questions are related. The 49ers have two starting-caliber nose tackles in Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams but only use a nose tackle on about 40 percent of their defensive plays. Furthermore, Quinton Dial has played the position in the past and may get some repetitions there this offseason. If Trent Baalke wants more draft picks for next season - and Baalke always wants more picks - it would seem like this position could fetch a nice price and that Williams would be the likeliest to be dangled. In fact, the entire defensive line is deep, especially on a team that uses only two at a time on obvious passing downs.

Answ: Do you mean, "Are the 49ers at risk of losing Hunter to free agency in March?" That's possible. But as is the case in all questions about the future of the running back spot, the 49ers still don't know exactly what they have in Marcus Lattimore. If Lattimore looks like the second coming of Roger Craig this year, it may make the team less apt to strike a long-term deal with Hunter. Still, I think the running back pecking order, at least for the first half of the season, will begin with Frank Gore and Hunter.

May 16, 2014
Stevie Johnson hasn't forgotten drop vs. Steelers, says it changed approach to the game

Receiver Stevie Johnson, who is as well-known for end-zone t-shirt displays as he is 1,000-yard seasons, says he's at a point in his career where "it's about handling business first." The new 49ers receiver said this new business-like outlook began late in the 2010 season when, as a member of the Bills, he dropped five passes against the Steelers, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime. The Bills lost 19-16.

"I'll never get over it. Ever," Johnson said after that game.

He was still thinking about it on Thursday.

"When I missed the pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was pretty focused on the just showing up and having 100 yards, having a couple of touchdowns and having fun," Johnson, 27, said at 49ers headquarters. "After all that happened, I had to sit back and realized, 'You have to handle business before you have fun.'"

Prior to the Steelers game in 2010, Johnson was fined $5,000 when, following a touchdown catch against the Bengals, he lifted his jersey to reveal that he'd written "Why so serious?" on the t-shirt beneath it. He also was penalized - and benched - after revealing, "Happy New Year" on his t-shirt following a touchdown against the Patriots.

That celebration occurred more than a year after the drop against the Steelers.

- Matt Barrows

May 15, 2014
49ers sign RB Hyde, CB Johnson; five rookie deals done

The 49ers now have five of their 12 draft picks under contract after finishing deals for second-round pick Carlos Hyde, a running back, and fourth-round selection Dontae Johnson, a cornerback. The 235-pound Hyde trained with Frank Gore in Florida following the combine and the team is eyeing him as a possible workhorse running back and replacement for Gore should the veteran leave when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Johnson, meanwhile, has the size - 6-2, 200 pounds - the 49ers have been seeking at cornerback. He also is familiar to Jim Harbaugh, who recruited him at Stanford. Johnson, who is from New Jersey, chose N.C. State because it was closer to home.

"Yeah, that one left a bruise," Harbaugh said on Saturday. "But we got him now and he was really excited. Another great moment talking to him and he remembered us at Stanford, recruiting him and visiting. The time we visited together. Also [offensive coordinator] Greg Roman went out to the school and visited. So that was quite a thrill to get to talk to him, make him a part of our team."

The 49ers have deals with Hyde, Johnson, fellow cornerback Keith Reaser, outside linebacker Aaron Lynch and defensive end Kaleb Ramsey.

-- Matt Barrows

May 15, 2014
Shayne Skov eager for what may be 49ers' best offseason position battle


Shayne Skov battled a knee injury midway through his college career, a calf injury just before the scouting combine and a hamstring injury prior to his pro day at Stanford. The string of bad breaks - which translated into a sluggish 5.1-second 40-yard dash prior to the draft - helps explain why Skov, who was once viewed as one of the top inside linebackers in the nation, went undrafted last week.

Skov admitted to being surprised by the snub, which has created a sizable chip on his shoulder as he prepares for what promises to be perhaps the 49ers' best offseason position battle.

"When public opinion and people's perceptions are different than your own then obviously you're going to take that a little bit personally," Skov said on Thursday. "But at the end of the day I'm a football player. From here on out, my play and my abilities are going to dictate whether I see the field or not and what my future is as a player."

Skov played for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio for a season at Stanford and is more familiar with the 49ers' defense than any of the team's rookies. The 49ers also will have an opening at inside linebacker while NaVorro Boman recovers from his January ACL tear.

May 15, 2014
As stadium nears completion, 49ers hoping for green and gold


If you've been watching the 49ers' live stadium feed and wondering why the new grass gets a regular dousing while you are showing every third day due to California's drought, there's a reason. The stadium uses recycled -- or "gray"-- water, which is something you definitely don't want to use for your baths. The type of grass used, Bermuda Bandera, also requires up to 50 percent less water than other types used in the Bay Area.

I wrote about the green-i-ness of the new stadium a couple of years ago, and the team still is gunning for a LEED gold (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) status. The Ravens have the only other sports venue in the United States with a LEED gold rating. (Jim Harbaugh is always playing second fiddle to his older brother).

Recycled water is one of the ways they hope to achieve that mark. Another is with solar panels, which will sit atop the three bridges that lead to the stadium as well as the roof of the tower suite. The team expects that the power generated from those panels will offset the power used in the 10 NFL games played there each year.

Some observations of a tour of the facility on Thursday:

* The team's spacious locker room is nearly complete, and it provides a noticeable home-field advantage. The ceilings are 18- to 20-feet high, whereas the visitor's locker room's are 10-feet high. The lockers are made of walnut, which is built into the ceiling as well. The visitor's space is painted a dark gray. The 49ers' locker room is roomy even now despite temporary lockers for the 90-man offseason locker. It will have 64 lockers when the regular season begins. The 49ers are not yet ready to move into their new digs, but it will serve as the team's primary locker room - for practices, offseason, etc. - once the stadium is complete.

May 14, 2014
49ers sign quarterback Josh Johnson


The 49ers' quarterback carousel continues to turn.

Josh Johnson, who was cut by the Bengals earlier this week, is now with the 49ers, who have five quarterbacks on the roster. The team released defensive tackle Christian Tupou to make room for Johnson.

Johnson, 27, played for Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego, and he spent the 2012 offseason with the 49ers. He lost the battle for third quarterback to Scott Tolzien, who was released a year later. Johnson had a good preseason that year and outplayed Tolzien in the finale. He was picked up by the Bengals on December 26, 2012. He spent the 2013 season there but never threw a pass in Cincinnati, entering games only in a mop-up capacity.

After starter Colin Kaepernick the 49ers have Blaine Gabbert, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner and now Johnson.

-- Matt Barrows

May 14, 2014
49ers' Levi's Stadium to host Pac-12 Championship


The Pac-12 has been the only major conference that's held its championship football game in a non-neutral site. That will change this year when the conference's North and South champions meet at Levi's Stadium on Dec. 5. A press conference announcing the new site will be held Thursday at the 49ers' new stadium.

The 69,000-seat stadium is the first NFL venue to be built in California since the 1960s. It will host its first game on Saturday, Aug. 2 when the MLS Earthquakes host the Seattle Sounders. That match will be used as a test run to make sure all of the stadium's operations - from parking to concessions to the video boards - work properly.

The first NFL game will be held Sunday, Aug. 17 when the Broncos play the 49ers in the preseason. Levi's Stadium has its initial regular-season game in Week 2, Sunday, Sept. 14 when the Bears arrive for a prime-time game. The City of Santa Clara asked that the 49ers not host any weekday games in the first year of the stadium. A percentage of the parking spaces that will be used on game days belong to nearby businesses, which ostensibly will be occupied on weekdays. The 49ers will host the Seahawks on Thanksgiving when, of course, those private parking spaces will be available.

The Pac-12 championship will not be the only college game at the new stadium. Cal will host Oregon on Oct. 24, a Friday night game. The Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences also have a six-year deal in place from 2014-2019 to play the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at Levi's Stadium

The Pac-12 championship game also will be on Friday, although the time has not yet been announced. The 49ers have their bye the week of the Cal game; they are on the road for two straight weeks following the Pac-12 championship. The Pac-12 has been the only major conferences without a neutral site. The SEC plays its championship game in Atlanta, the ACC in Charlotte, and the Big Ten in Indianapolis.

-- Matt Barrows

May 14, 2014
Battle stations! Ranking the 49ers' offseason competitions


The 49ers' 90-man roster likely will be tweaked here and there throughout the offseason. But the major players are set, and with them the biggest position battles of the offseason. This is how I rank them:

Inside linebacker - This gets top billing because the winner is guaranteed not to be an incumbent starter. NaVorro Bowman is doing quite well in his recovery from ACL surgery, but the 49ers are very unlikely to rush his return. The smart money is on Bowman coming back in Week 9, which is one week after the team's bye. This will be a three-way race among Michael Wilhote, Nick Moody and third-round pick Chris Borland to replace Bowman in the meantime. You also wonder if two people could win it -- one player coming in on first and second downs and the other entering in nickel packages. Moody is the most athletic member of the trio and played safety at Florida State. On paper, at least, he would seem to be the best bet for playing the nickel role. Undrafted Shayne Skov is the wild card. He obviously knows the defense and the hope is that the further he moves from his 2011 ACL injury the closer he gets to his 2010 form.

Center - When the 49ers extended Daniel Kilgore's contract this offseason, it looked for all the world that he would take over Jonathan Goodwin's starting role this year. He's still the frontrunner, for sure. After all, Kilgore is going into the fourth year in this offense, has played center extensively in the preseason and has taken a few snaps in regular-season games as well. But third-round pick Marcus Martin was taken two rounds ahead of Kilgore's spot in 2011, and he is a bigger man at 6-3, 320 pounds and with 34-inch arms. The question about Martin's future is two-fold: How quickly can he learn the 49ers' offense and will the 49ers prefer to play him at guard?

Nickel cornerback - Trent Baalke doesn't want another A.J. Jenkins situation - in which the 30th overall pick in the draft sits on the bench for virtually all of his rookie season. So he's got a reason to root for Jimmie Ward for this spot. Ward appears well-suited for the role. He's smart, aggressive, instinctive, quick and a very willing tackler. But Baalke also has a stake in cornerback Eric Wright having stuck his neck out for Wright after his second DUI arrest in two years last summer. (Wright ultimately was charged with reckless driving in the latest case; he pled no contest and was sentenced to 36 months' probation with a $510 fine, 100 hours of community service and six months of drug treatment with testing). Meanwhile, Vic Fangio and the coaching staff have favored Perrish Cox for the position in the past. In the end, look for a repeat of how Fangio handled Eric Reid last year. Fangio - who is hesitant to start rookies - didn't start Reid at first in the preseason but couldn't ignore his superior talent. Reid ended up starting all 19 games when the season began. That is, if Ward isn't the team's nickel corner from the outset, it will be an upset.

May 13, 2014
49ers sign two draft picks to contracts

That didn't take long.

The 49ers began chipping away at a 12-man to-do list by signing two members of their draft class to four-year deals. The first to have their contracts completed were fifth-round pick Aaron Lynch from South Florida and seventh-round pick Kaleb Ramsey from Boston College. The 49ers and Jets tied with a league-high 12 picks in the recent draft.

Lynch (6-5, 255 pounds) will play outside linebacker in the team's 3-4 scheme. Ramsey (6-3, 285) will play defensive end. Ten years ago, teams used to wait until the start of training camp to sign their draft classes. Salaries are slotted under the new collective bargaining agreement, and some teams began signing players this week.

-- Matt Barrows

May 13, 2014
South Florida strength coach who criticized 49ers resigns

The University of South Florida strength coach who criticized the 49ers for drafting former USF defensive end Aaron Lynch has resigned, the school's athletic director said in a statement.

After the 49ers selected Lynch, who was removed from at least one other team's draft board due to character concerns, USF strength and conditioning coach Hans Straub went to Twitter. "Thought an organization with 5 Super Bowl titles would have a stricter draft criteria. Clearly, integrity & character are not a priority," Straub wrote. The post has since been removed.

The 49ers took Lynch, a 6-5, 255-pound underclassman in the fifth round on the backing of the football coach Willie Taggart, who is friends with Jim Harbaugh.

"USF Athletics has high expectations for each and every student-athlete, coach and staff member," athletic director Mark Harlan said in a statement. "To that end, I have accepted the resignation of Hans Straub from the position of head strength and conditioning coach. I thank him for his contributions to USF Athletics and wish him well in his future endeavors. A national search for his replacement will begin immediately."

The university reportedly placed Straub on an "indefinite leave" after he made the comment. For more on the story and what the 49ers said after drafting Lynch, click here.

-- Matt Barrows

May 13, 2014
Numbers game: New 49ers pick their jerseys


Wideout Brandon Lloyd, who wore No. 85 in his first stint with the team, has dropped down a digit and will wear No. 84 this year. That jersey was worn last year by fellow receiver Jon Baldwin, who will wear No. 82, which he wore at Pitt. Other new numbers, in order, according to the 49ers:

  • QB Blaine Gabbert - No. 2 (He was No. 11 at Missouri and with the Jaguars)

  • WR Bruce Ellington - No. 3 (This is temporary; WR numbers must be in the teens or 80s)

  • WR David Reed - No. 10

  • WR Stevie Johnson - No. 13 (Johnson had this number in Buffalo)

  • QB Kory Faulkner - No. 18 (He wore No. 19 at Southern Illinois; WR Devon Wylie has 19 for SF)

  • CB Chris Cook - No. 22 (He was No. 20 with Vikings)

  • S Antoine Bethea -- No. 24. (He was No. 41 in Indy; Bubba Ventrone has 41)

  • DB Jimmie Ward - No. 25 (He was No. 15 at No. Illinois. DBs must be in 20s, 30s, 40s)

  • RB Carlos Hyde - No. 28 (He was No. 34 at Ohio State, which was worn by the great Joe Perry and is retired)

  • CB Keith Reaser - No. 31

  • CB Dontae Johnson - No. 36

  • CB Kenneth Acker - No. 38
May 13, 2014
Report: USF assistant suspended after questioning 49ers' selection of Aaron Lynch


The University of South Florida's strength and conditioning coach reportedly has been suspended for a tweet he made about the 49ers' fifth-round selection of former Bulls' defender Aaron Lynch.

Read the tweet from Hans Straub, which has since been removed: "Thought an organization with 5 Super Bowl titles would have a stricter draft criteria. Clearly, integrity & character are not a priority."

Josh Newberg of 247Sports, citing unnamed sources, first reported the suspension. NFL teams typically turn to college strength coaches for background on a prospect, especially that prospect's work ethic and demeanor.

The 49ers acknowledged that Lynch, who left Notre Dame for USF after an impressive 2011 season and then had only a middling 2013 year with the Bulls, had red flags. But Lynch had the backing of USF head coach Willie Taggart, a former assistant at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh and one of Harbaugh's close friends. Taggart spoke up for Lynch prior to the draft.

"He believes that this is a good young man," Harbaugh said of his conversation with Taggart. "(Lynch) needs direction. He needs good structure around him where he's got guys, men that he would look up to. That he would have a chance to emulate. Feels that he'll thrive in that kind of environment."

Said Taggart when asked about Straub's tweet today: "Very disappointed in the tweet that you're talking about. Hans knows how disappointed I am. ... Our football team knows how disappointed I am." The quote was provided by the school's athletic communications department.

Linebackers coach Jim Leavitt, who once coached at USF, also was familiar with Lynch, a 6-6, 255 defensive end who will compete at outside linebacker for the 49ers. Lynch visited Santa Clara last month and met extensively with Leavitt and general manager Trent Baalke.

"I think you need to dig into him a little bit more," Baalke said. "This isn't a young man that has a rap sheet that you're dealing with. He's not a young man that's been in a lot of trouble. He's made some mistakes. He's got to do some things differently. He understands that and we as an organization understand that.

May 12, 2014
49ers sign six undrafted rookies; release LB Darius Fleming


The 49ers today signed six rookies who went undrafted over the weekend, including Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov and Southern Illinois quarterback Kory Faulker. A seventh, Asante Cleveland, a tight end from Sacramento who played at the University of Miami, is expected to sign shortly.

To make room on the 90-man roster, the team released three players, including linebacker Darius Fleming, a fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft. Fleming tore an ACL in each of the last two seasons and never played a snap for the 49ers. His release means that just two members of that year's draft class -- second-round pick LaMichael James and fourth-round pick Joe Looney -- remain with the squad.

The other two players who were let go are cornerback Dax Swanson and receiver DeMarco Sampson.The 49ers also signed:

* OLB Morgan Breslin, USC, 6-1, 240. He had a team-high 13 sacks last year but suffered a hip injury that limited him to just four sacks his senior year in 2013.

* C Dillon Farrell, New Mexico, 6-4, 303. He was an All-Mountain West honorable mention and has experience at both guard and center.

* OT Fou Fonoti, Michigan State, 6-4, 308. He played in 28 career games with the Spartans, and he started all 12 contests as a senior.

* S L.J. McCray, Catawba, 6-0, 215. Athletic safety who has the potential to stand out on special teams.

Skov is perhaps the most well-known free-agent pickup. He played for Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio at Stanford, leading the team in tackles in 2010, Harbaugh's and Fangio's last year there. Skov tore his ACL the following season, however, then was injured for the scouting combine and Stanford's pro day.

May 12, 2014
Tale of the tape: 49ers have long-armed draft class ... with one exception


Trent Baalke, an admitted admirer of long-armed players, lamented in February that few draft prospects this year had the length he's looking for. "All of the guys last year on the D-line were 34 (inches) or more," Baalke said of 2013 prospects like Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial. "I think it's an important trait. It's a trait that's hard to find. If you look at this this year's measurements, you're not going to find many players in this year's draft that are 34-plus arm length regardless of position -- O-line, D-line, linebacker. So it is a trait we certainly look at."

Still, Baalke managed to land three prospects in the 34-inch club on Friday and Saturday. Keeping in mind that the average arm length -- from shoulder to the end of the middle finger -- in this draft was little under 31 inches, here are the official measures, most of them from the scouting combine:

1. S Jimmie Ward - 31"
2. RB Carlos Hyde - 32"
3A. OL Marcus Martin - 34"
3B. ILB Chris Borland - 29 1/4"
3C. OL Brandon Thomas - 34 3/4"
4A. WR Bruce Ellington - 31"
4B. CB Dontae Johnson - 31 1/2"
5A. OLB Aaron Lynch - 34"
5B.CB Keith Reaser - 30 ¾"
6. CB Kenneth Acker - 31"
7A. DL Kaleb Ramsey - 32 7/8"
7B. Trey Millard - 31"
* WR Stevie Johnson - 32 3/4"

Obviously, Borland's stubby arms stand out, and they were a knock against him in the run-up to the draft. When he met with reporters Friday night, Baalke arrived armed - sorry, couldn't resist -- for questions about Borland's levers. "How can you not love him as a football player?" Baalke said. "Not tall enough, not fast enough, arms are too short - you hear all of that. We just love the makeup. We love the player. He's everything you're looking for from a DNA standpoint."

* trade

-- Matt Barrows

May 11, 2014
49ers draft thoughts: Dr. Jekyll & Aaron Lynch ...

When it was reported last month that Aaron Lynch visited the 49ers, I put on one of Lynch's games last year at South Florida. I wasn't impressed. Yes, he got off the line of scrimmage quickly from his defensive line spot. But all he had was an outside move, and even that wasn't all that great. He was stonewalled whenever he tried to loop inside. He spent a lot of time on the ground. His stat line from that game against Michigan State: two tackles, no sacks. Meh. I didn't need to see more. This guy stinks.

But if you watch Lynch two years earlier against the same team, Michigan State, he looks like a morph between Aldon Smith and Jason Taylor. But angrier and more disruptive. Mike Mayock, who was doing the play-by-play in that game, couldn't stop gushing about Lynch, a true freshman for Notre Dame at the time, and deservedly so. Lynch played on the inside of the line and routinely brought pressure up the middle of the Spartans' pocket. In the second half, the Spartans double teamed him and chipped him with a running back, and still he came. He was unstoppable.

In short, he was a different person. At South Florida, he looked skinny and fatigued. He was bigger, nastier, more ferocious at Notre Dame. He did a lot of the inside stunting that Smith has done so well for the 49ers. The 49ers did a lot of research on Lynch, and they must believe he can return to his Notre Dame form. If he does -- and I realize this sounds a lot like draft-time hyperbole, so be it -- the 49ers hit a home run in the bottom of the fifth.

If the 49ers had traded up for a wide receiver in the first round - something GM Trent Baalke acknowledged contemplating - I was prepared to write the sentence: The 49ers' move ahead for _________ may signal that they don't intend to sign Michael Crabtree to a long-term extension. Crabtree, of course, is entering the final year of his rookie deal. The 49ers didn't trade up. In fact, they didn't draft a wideout until the fourth round (Bruce Ellington). But they traded for veteran Stevie Johnson, who is signed through the next three seasons at salaries that are lower - perhaps significantly lower - than what Crabtree will want. The bottom line: The 49ers' trade for Johnson may signal that they don't intend to sign Michael Crabtree to a long-term extension.

Another player whose long-term extension seems more unlikely today than it did a week ago? Mike Iupati's. The 49ers drafted two interior linemen, Marcus Martin and Brandon Thomas (Thomas played tackle but is projected to guard) who were among the best at their positions. Thomas likely won't play this year after suffering a torn ACL last month. But he will be ready next season when Iupati is set to hit the free-agent market. With Daniel Kilgore, Joe Looney and perhaps even Jonathan Martin contending for spots on the interior offensive line, the 49ers should find at least one candidate to play left guard should Iupati depart.

May 10, 2014
Undrafted free agents: 49ers land Skov, Southern Illinois QB


The 49ers had one of the most loaded rosters in the NFL before the draft. Then they added 12 drafts picks during it. That means they don't have a lot of room for undrafted free agents, though they are starting to fill up those slots.

* QB Kory Faulkner, Southern Illinois, 6-3, 229
Faulkner is a big, strong-armed quarterback who threw 18 touchdowns against four interceptions last year. He missed three games with a broken finger but still finished with 1,997 yards and averaged nearly 222 passing yards a game. Faulkner also can run. He rushed 60 times for 283 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns last year. Jim Harbaugh met with Faulkner during his trip to Miami, Ohio for the recent unveiling of his brother's statue on campus. He said Faulker has experience in a read-option offense and also has operated under center. He'll compete against Blaine Gabbert and McLeod Bethel-Thompson for a backup job this offseason.

* OLB Morgan Breslin, USC, 6-1, 240
The junior college transfer had a team-high 13 sacks last year but suffered a hip injury that limited him to just four sacks his senior year in 2013. He had a good showing at the Trojans' pro day in March, leaping 35 1/2 inches in the vertical jump and pumping out 26 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press.

* TE Asante Cleveland, Miami, 6-5, 261
Sacramento product (Christian Brothers) has great size but was underutilized by the Hurricanes. He only caught three passes as a senior last year.

* C Dillon Farrell, New Mexico, 6-4, 303
All-Mountain West honorable mention has good size and experience at both guard and center.

* OT Fou Fonoti, Michigan State, 6-4, 308
Fonoti has played in 28 career games with the Spartans, and he started all 12 contests as a senior. He started the last nine games at right tackle.

* S L.J. McCray, Catawba, 6-0, 215.
McCray is a very athletic safety who stood out with an impressive 41-inch vertical leap at his pro day. His best fit immediately might be on special teams coverage units. The 49ers' top players there -- C.J. Spillman, Bubba Ventrone, Dan Skuta and Kassim Osgood -- are entering the final year of their contracts. McCray also has returned kicks.

* ILB Shayne Skov, Stanford, 6-2, 245
Skov, of course, is familiar to Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio who coached him at Stanford. Skov had a fantastic season in 2010 but suffered an ACL injury the following year. He rebounded this past season and was a finalist for the Butkus Award. He recorded a team-high 109 tackles (62 solo), 13 tackles for loss and 5 1/2 sacks.

-- Matt Barrows

May 10, 2014
Seventh round: 49ers end draft with defensive lineman, versatile fullback


No. 243. Kaleb Ramsey, DE, Boston College. The 49ers waited until their penultimate pick to take a defensive lineman. Ramsey has classic size for a 3-4 defensive end at 6-3, 293 pounds. Impressively, he had 36 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press before the draft. Ramsey spent six seasons at Boston College after being injured in 2011 and 2012. Last year he finished with 28 tackles, four for loss and had two sacks.

No. 245. Trey Millard, FB, Oklahoma. The 49ers rounded out the draft -- perhaps appropriately -- with another player who suffered an ACL injury. Millard (6-2, 247) tore his ACL and another ligament in his left knee in October following a 38-30 win over No. 10 Texas Tech. The versatile Millard was a team captain last year. He has good size and soft hands having caught 30 passes for the Sooners in 2012. Draft picks Brandon Thomas, a guard, and Keith Reaser, a cornerback, also are coming off ACL tears.

The 49ers' starting fullback, of course, is Bruce Miller, a seventh-round pick in 2011 whom the team recently awarded with a three-year contract extension. It's possible that the 49ers are looking at Millard as an H-back.

-- Matt Barrows

May 10, 2014
Sixth round: 49ers take third cornerback of the day, Kenneth Acker


No. 180. Kenneth Acker, CB, SMU.

The 49ers didn't take a cornerback on the first two days of the draft, but they have taken three today. Acker (5-11, 190) had 16 pass deflections and three interceptions last season for SMU. When the Mustangs played Texas A&M on Sept. 21, they lost 42-13. But Acker had a good game against receiver Mike Evans, a Top 10 pick to Tampa Bay, limiting the big wideout to two catches for 57 yards and no touchdowns.

Acker picked off three passes in 2012 as well, returning one of them for a touchdown. He was one of the most athletic players on the squad, so much so that coaches gave him a look at wide receiver before the season. Acker suffered a hernia in the spring, however, which he said halted his move to receiver. He also has some punt- and kick-returning experience. He handled 14 punts in four seasons, averaging 8.1 yards a return. Acker said he would have done more of that last year, but injuries at his position meant that coaches didn't want to risk him on special teams.

"I went out there a lot for the sure-hands guys just to make sure we got possession of the ball," Acker said on a conference call.

Acker joins a cornerback group that includes fourth-round pick Dontae Johnson and fifth rounder Keith Reaser, who is unlikely to play in 2014. in addition, the 49ers used their first-round pick on safety Jimmie Ward, who is expected to play nickel cornerback. The team's starters promise to be Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver.

-- Matt Barrows

May 10, 2014
Fifth round: 49ers tap pass rusher Aaron Lynch, cornerback Reaser


No. 150. Aaron Lynch, OLB, South Florida.

Lynch was one of the 30 prospects who visited the 49ers in Santa Clara last month likely because the team wanted to answer questions about his character. Lynch transferred from Notre Dame after earning first-team Freshman All-American honors in 2011 and sat out 2012. His weight dropped to 240 pounds at that time because he said he was taking Adderall, which suppressed his appetite. He said he's back to 255 pounds now and that he's at his best at 260 pounds.

Lynch said he's known 49ers linebacker coach Jim Leavitt since high school and that he spent a lot of time with Leavitt and general manager Trent Baalke during his visit. He praised the 49ers for taking time to learn about him. One of the critiques of Lynch is that he was lazy and underachieved at South Florida. Some draft observers thought that talent-wise, Lynch projects to a first-round selection. "I am a first-round talent," Lynch said. "I made some mistakes in my past and I figure that hurt me a little bit."

Lynch has excellent length and long arms (34 inches). He was a first-team all-conference selection last season after finishing with six sacks and 12 1/2 tackles for loss. Like last year with Corey Lemonier, the 49ers drafted a tall, ex-defensive end at the position. Lynch will compete with Dan Skuta and Lemonier for playing time. With Aldon Smith likely to serve a suspension in 2014, those players conceivably will be battling for a starting spot.

Lynch was recruited by Leavitt and played at South Florida for coach Willie Taggart, a former assistant at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh and one of Harbaugh's closest friends (Harbaugh was the best man at Taggart's wedding). Lynch should benefit from Leavitt's tutelage as well as that of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who coaches the team's outside linebackers. "This is my dream," he said. "I don't know how to express myself right now. This is amazing. First round, third round, it doesn't matter."

No. 170. Keith Reaser, CB, Florida Atlantic. Reaser is a member of the 49ers' ever-growing All-ACL team. The speedy cornerback tore his ACL six games into the season in October, then had to have a second surgery in February when his body rejected the cadaver ligament initially used to repair the tear. Like third-round pick Brandon Thomas, Reaser is unlikely to play in 2014 and his rookie-year salary should toll to 2015. Reaser (5-10, 189) has good athleticism and nice strength.

He said he ran a 4.32-second 40-yard dash at Florida Atlantic last year, and he has kick-return experience in college. Of course, he couldn't run at the scouting combine in February but was able to do 22 repetitions on the bench press. Reaser was one of the players who went back to Indianapolis for a medical checkup last month. "Everything's cleared up now," he said on a conference call. "So I should be good to go."

-- Matt Barrows

May 10, 2014
Fourth round: 49ers take WR Ellington, DB Johnson


No. 106: Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina. The 49ers finally tapped a wide receiver, landing one of several prospects in this draft class with a basketball background. Ellington was a point guard for the Gamecocks and projects to slot receiver in the NFL. He leaped 39.5 inches at the combine and ran his 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds. At 5-9, 197 pounds, Ellington is undersized, but he showed good toughness and was an excellent blocker with the Gamecocks.

Ellington also has punt- and kick-return experience, meaning that if LaMichael James remains on the squad this season he will have competition. Ellington was not prolific due in part to a Gamecocks offense that spread the ball around. He started 11 of 13 games last year with 49 catches, 775 yards and eight touchdowns. During a conference call, Ellington noted that he played quarterback, defensive back and running back in high school and that he split his college career with basketball. "I feel like I have a lot of growth (at receiver)," he said. "Because I only played it for three years."

No. 129: Dontae Johnson, CB, N.C. State. With their second, fourth-round pick, the 49ers took defensive back Dontae Johnson, who has the size Trent Baalke has been looking for at cornerback -- 6-2, 200. Johnson played both safety and cornerback at N.C. State, but confirmed on a conference call that the 49ers are looking at him as a press-style cornerback. Like first-round pick Jimmie Ward, Johnson lined up at a number of spots in college, including at slot cornerback (see: video below). Johnson scored well at the combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds and leaping 38.5 inches in the vertical jump. He started all 12 games last season with five starts at cornerback and seven at free safety.Johnson may be tall but has shortish arms for his height -- 31 1/2 inches. Hands are 8 5/8 inches.

Johnson also is brainy. He was a double major at N.C. State -- sports management and business administration -- and he also was recruited by Jim Harbaugh to play at Stanford. "Honestly, it was too far," said Johnson, who is from New Jersey. "I wanted to stay closer to home." Johnson had a formal meeting with Harbaugh and the 49ers at the scouting combine at which point the 49ers coach -- as is his custom -- asked Johnson why he turned him down five years ago.

Johnson will join a cornerback group that includes Tramaine Brock, Chris Culliver, Eric Wright, Perrish Cox, Chris Cook and Darryl Morris. Ward will compete to be the nickel/slot cornerback.

-- Matt Barrows

May 9, 2014
49ers reinforce might-is-right approach on second day of draft


While the rest of the NFL has been moving toward a more finesse, more pass-oriented style of play, the 49ers haven't budged from their old-school, might-is-right approach to the game. The team reinforced that strategy on the second day of the draft Friday as they selected two interior offensive linemen, a throw-back style inside linebacker and a 235-pound running back from Ohio State, Carlos Hyde.

"Big wins," general manager Trent Baalke said minutes after the third round was complete. "Big wins a lot of football games in the league. And big in the middle wins a lot of football games."

The 49ers began the second day of the draft with Hyde, a powerful, squat runner who gained 3,198 yards and scored 37 touchdowns in 20 starts for the Buckeyes.

The selection of a big-bodied ball carrier was a look ahead to next year when the 49ers may be without Frank Gore, who is entering the final year of his contract and who turns 31 next week. Hyde said he looked up to Gore, felt he had a similar style to Gore - "violent," he said of that style - but that he planned to push Gore for a starting spot.

"What I bring is I play with a lot of passion," he said. "I feel like guys can feed off of that. They see how hard I run the ball and how much determination I run with."

Hyde had a particularly ferocious battle in college against the 49ers' second, third-round draft pick, Wisconsin's Chris Borland, a small but gritty linebacker who was one of the top tacklers in the nation in recent years.

May 9, 2014
Third-round bounty: 49ers tap center, linebacker, guard


The 49ers now have four picks in the third round after a bevy of trades in the second. I'll post them here as they come in.

No. 70: Marcus Martin, C/G, USC. The 6-3, 310-pound Martin played center last year for USC, which puts him in competition with Daniel Kilgore, a fifth-round pick in 2011, for the starting role. Martin, 20, also played guard. And either he or Kilgore -- depending on who is playing center -- conceivably could step in for Mike Iupati at left guard should Iupati depart via free agency in March. Martin is an underclassman. He was the first true freshman to start on the Trojans' offensive line since 2004. Martin said he was "100 percent healthy" after dealing with recent knee and ankle injuries. Martin has 34-inch arms, which is excellent for an interior lineman and something that general manager Trent Baalke has said he covets in draft prospects.

No. 77: Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin. Borland (5-11, 245) was an ultra-productive tackler at Wisconsin -- 112 stops last year -- who has forced 15 fumbles over his career there. In terms of production, Borland was perhaps the top inside linebacker in the draft. But his size and -- gasp! -- stubby, 28 5/8-inch arms may have caused him to slip. NaVorro Bowman is expected to miss perhaps the first half of the season while he recovers from January's ACL tear, and Borland will compete with Michael Wilhoite and Nick Moody for that role. Borland said he hasn't had a lot of coverage duties at Wisconsin, something the 49ers require from their inside linebackers, but it's not because he can't do it. "I think that was because of my skills as a pass rusher, not because of any deficiencies," he said.

No. 100: Brandon Thomas, G/T, Clemson. The 49ers have a habit of picking talented but injured players, and they continued it this year with Thomas. The Clemson lineman suffered a torn ACL while working out for the Saints in the run-up to the draft. The 6-4, 315-pound Thomas is unlikely to play this season, and if that happens his rookie-year contract would toll to 2015 and he would be signed through 2018. Thomas becomes yet another candidate to play left guard should Iupati move on next year. Like Martin, Thomas has exceptionally long arms -- 34 3/4 inches -- for an interior lineman. He's also played tackle while at Clemson.

The 49ers traded the 94th overall pick to the Browns for a fourth- and the sixth-round pick this year. They now have seven picks in rounds four through seven.

-- Matt Barrows

May 9, 2014
Hyde & seek: 49ers take big RB in second round


With Frank Gore entering the final year of his contract and questions lingering about Marcus Lattimore, the 49ers selected a big-bodied running back at pick No. 57, Carlos Hyde from Ohio State. Hyde is 6-0, 235 pounds and rushed for 1,527 yards after being suspended for the first three games of the season. The suspension was stemming from an alleged assault in 2013.

The 49ers have been a run-first team for the last decade, but they suddenly have question marks at tailback. Gore, their workhorse since 2006, turns 31 next week and is not signed beyond this season. In addition, Kendall Hunter is entering the final year of his contract and LaMichael James is unhappy with his playing time and wants a trade. Lattimore, meanwhile, was a fourth-round pick last year after suffering a grisly knee injury at South Carolina in 2012. He is continuing to come back from that injury.

Hyde said he has watched and admired Gore, feels like he runs similarly to Gore, and is gunning for Gore's starting job. "I'm going to definitely get in there and compete for that starting job and keep that running game alive that Frank Gore brought to it," Hyde said in a conference call.

Hyde said he described his running style as "violent." "What I bring is I play with a lot of passion," he said. "I feel like guys can feed off of that. They see how hard I run the ball and how much determination I run with." Hyde is among the biggest tailbacks in the draft, and he scored 18 touchdowns last season, 15 of them on the ground.

As to his suspension, Hyde said the 49ers asked him about it during an interview at the combine. "That's the first incident I've ever been in in college and I haven't been in any trouble after that," he said.

The 49ers have had nine arrests involving players in the last two years.

-- Matt Barrows

May 9, 2014
Jimmie Ward makes his mother cry


New 49ers safety/slot cornerback Jimmie Ward made his debut in front of the local media today, and the personable 22-year-old came away with an A grade.

Ward, who is from Mobile, Ala., said that Round 1 of the draft also fell on his mom's birthday. Early in the day, he drove three hours west to New Orleans. He needed to find a mall that had an unusually extravagant gift he wanted to buy his mother, a Louis Vuitton purse. He drove back during the first half of the first round, then was home when Jim Harbaugh called to tell him he was the 49ers' selection at pick No. 30.

"She was proud, she was happy, then it was crazy when I got drafted," said Ward of his mother, whom he credited with steering him from trouble in the "tough neighborhood" he grew up in in Mobile. Needless to say, she also appreciated her birthday gift, which she opened in front of the whole family.

"I never, ever - I couldn't afford anything like that," Ward said. "First time for me ever buying anything for my mother over $100. So it felt great."

Ward admitted to being a class clown, and he recalled one of his grade school teachers once telling him that he would make his mother cry one day. "And she was right," he said. "But it was tears of joy."

FYI, guys, Mother's Day is Sunday.

-- Matt Barrows

May 9, 2014
49ers trade 2015 pick for WR Stevie Johnson


The 49ers, who were expected to go after a wide receiver in Friday's draft, landed one hours before the second round even began. The team acquired veteran Stevie Johnson, who was born in San Francisco and went to high school in Fairfield, from the Bills for a conditional draft pick next year. As it stands now, that pick is a fourth-round selection, but it can improve to a third rounder if certain, undisclosed parameters are met.

Johnson, 27, had been a productive - if not controversial - receiver in Buffalo, but he became expendable when the Bills drafted Sammy Watkins in the first round Thursday. Johnson had 52 catches for 597 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games last season and more than 1,000 receiving yards in each of the three previous seasons.

"Today's decision was not an easy one to make, especially involving a player like Stevie," Bills general manager Doug Whaley said in a statement. "We wish him best of luck with the 49ers and his NFL career."

He also caused the Bills a few headaches.

May 9, 2014
Round 2: Plenty of CBs, WRs left for 49ers

Jimmie Ward, the 49ers' first-round draft pick, can play several positions, including free and strong safety as well as the slot position in the team's nickel defense. General manager Trent Baalke, however, made it clear that he is not looking at Ward as a cornerback.

That means the 49ers' two biggest draft needs, cornerback and wide receiver, still must be addressed. The 49ers have five picks - two on the second round and three in the third - today, and there's a good chance they package some of those picks to target players they like. Baalke acknowledged interest in trading up in the first round for receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., but he said the price of doing so was too steep.

Instead, he decided to rely on the draft's impressive depth at the position. "We feel good about the wide receiver corps all the way through the draft," he said. "We feel there's going to be value to be had at every level. And that is one of the positions that we feel, or have felt all along, that had some depth to it."

Here are the top players remaining at cornerback and receiver, according to CBS.com. Comments are mine. The 49ers currently have picks 56 (2nd), 61 (2nd), 77 (3rd), 94 (3rd) and 100 (3rd).

Wide receivers:
* Marqise Lee, USC - Quick, smooth route runner looked great in 2012, battled injuries last year.
* Allen Robinson, Penn State - Good size and length but not as fast as some of the other options.
* Cody Latimer, Indiana - Powerfully built junior with very good hands. Coming off foot injury.
* Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt - Prolific pass catcher in SEC; many catches were on screens, short routes.
* Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss - He may be the best athlete of the group; was inconsistent last year.
* Davante Adams, Fresno State - FBS' leader in Tds and receptions last year. Great leaper, not fast.
* Jarvis Landry, LSU - Physical, determined pass catcher but not athletic or fast
* Bruce Ellington, South Carolina - Played point guard for Gamecocks. Physical, tough but lacks size.
* Martavis Bryant, Clemson - Tall, long-limbed down-field threat in the mold, at least, of Randy Moss.
* Paul Richardson, Colorado - Fast, downfield threat but weighs only 172 pounds.

* Philip Gaines, Rice - Surprised with an extremely fast 4.31-second 40 at combine. Has good, not great size.
* Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska - One of several tall, big-bodied cornerbacks who could catch Baalke's eye.
* Keith McGill, Utah - Another massive cornerback in the mold of Richard Sherman, other press specialists.
* Jaylen Watkins, Florida - Older brother of Clemson WR Sammy Watkins; versatile member of Gators secondary.
* Pierre Desir, Lindenwood - Tall, long-limbed but played at small school. Held his own at Senior Bowl.
* Marcus Roberson, Florida - Had alcohol arrest in 2011 and suspended a game in 2013. Next.
Walt Aikens, Liberty - Another 6-1, 200-plus pound cornerback who can play press coverage.
* Bashaud Breeland, Clemson - Tall and long-limbed. Had solid career at Clemson; burned deep vs. FSU.
* Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State - Former wrestler and team leader. Physique does not stand out.

-- Matt Barrows

May 8, 2014
Baalke on Jimmie Ward: Don't mistake size for lack of toughness


For the second straight season, the 49ers took a player listed as a free safety with their first-round choice. Jimmy Ward's immediate role, however, likely will come at the increasingly critical slot cornerback position.

The Northern Illinois safety is 5-11, 193 pounds, which is undersized for an NFL safety and quite a bit smaller than the team's top choice last year, Eric Reid. The 49ers' biggest free-agent addition this offseason, Antoine Bethea, also plays safety, and he and Reid are slated to start there this season.

Ward is expected to enter games when opponents line up three or more wide receivers, a role that veteran Carlos Rogers, now a member of the Raiders, had for the past three seasons. Ward said it was a position he played more than 50 percent of the time at Northern Illinois, which faced plenty of spread offenses in the Mid-American Conference, and is a role that has become more and more vital in the pass-heavy NFL. The 49ers coaches have preferred bigger-body cornerbacks at the spot in previous seasons because they play close to the trenches and are expected to make a lot of tackles.

"The nickel's been on the field 60 percent of the time for us," said 49ers general manager Trent Baalke. "So that's a starter in our opinion."

May 8, 2014
49ers tap safety Jimmie Ward in first round

For the second straight season, the 49ers took a safety in the first round, although Jimmie Ward might be best suited as a nickel cornerback early in his career. The Northern Illinois safety is 5-11, 193, which is undersized for an NFL player at his position and quite a bit smaller than Eric Reid, the team's top pick last season. The 49ers' biggest free-agent pickup, Antoine Bethea, also is a safety, and he and Reid are expected to start this season.

Ward was dealing with a foot injury during the combine in February, but he performed well at his pro day in March, which the 49ers attended. Ward reportedly ran his 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds, which would have been the second fastest time for a safety at the combine. In 2013, he had a team-high 95 tackles, seven interceptions and 17 pass deflections. Ward was a third-team All-American, a first-team All-MAC selection and a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award in 2013. Ward was one of nine defensive backs taken in the first round Thursday.

In the days before the draft, a buzz built that the 49ers would trade up in the first round and that LSU receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. was their likely target. Two receivers, Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans, were taken in the first seven picks, then the Giants snapped up Beckham with the 12th pick.


May 8, 2014
Live chat replay: Draft day finally has arrived
May 8, 2014
Trade up? 49ers' draft-day scenarios


Here are three first-day-of-draft scenarios for the 49ers in order of likelihood:

1. Trade up. 52% chance. This is the most likely outcomes for the following reasons: A.) Trent Baalke has done it in the past and it's part of their roster-building strategy - accumulate a lot of picks and then package those picks to target specific players. B.) The team has the means to do it, six selections in the Top 100 slots. C.) It's considered a deep draft, so teams in rebuilding mode might be more apt to exchange a high pick for multiple lower-round picks. How high is Baalke willing to go? My guess he wouldn't part ways with a first- or second-round pick for next year because that would run counter to the team's overall strategy. Therefore, moving into the Top 10 seems unlikely.
Targets: WR Odell Beckham, Jr., CB Justin Gilbert, CB Kyle Fuller

2. Stay put. 26% chance. Sometimes it's hard to find a dance partner. And if pre-draft chatter is even remotely accurate, the 49ers' top target, Beckham, is being eyed by a number of teams. The 49ers had the 30th pick in 2012 and stayed at that spot. If that happens again this year, look for them to take the highest rated receiver or cornerback on their board. Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste's names has been bandied about as a possibility, but if the team liked Baptiste, they were very discreet about it. Another position would be surprise. But pass rusher always is a possibility.

Targets: WR Cody Latimer, WR Davante Adams, CB Jason Verrett, WR Kelvin Benjamin, WR Jordan Matthews, WR Allen Robinson, OLB Dee Ford, OLB Demarcus Lawrence

May 7, 2014
Tick tock, it's time to mock ....

1. DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina.
Concerns about Clowney's work ethic are overblown. Just limit his snaps and make sure he has central a/c at all times. A mist machine and a cool glass of ice tea might be nice, too.
2. OT Greg Robinson, Auburn. The Rams must ask themselves: Protect quarterback Sam Bradford or replace him? They go with the easier move.
3. WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson.
Prolific wideout heads to Jacksonville, which along with Tennessee and Tampa forms the Bermuda Triangle of the NFL. So long, Sammy.
4. LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo.
Browns feel that Brian Hoyer is a better option than a man nicknamed Johnny Football. That's why they are the Browns.
5. OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M.
Raiders coach - blanking on his name - takes Matthews to protect quarterback - blanking on his name.

May 7, 2014
Kaepernick: Glad the truth is getting out

Colin Kaepernick and the two other players involved in the case in Miami have been mum about the details because it is an ongoing investigation. But Kaepernick, who took to Twitter last month to strongly defend himself, was back on the social media site today, one day after Miami Police released 911 calls related to the case.

The police initially had said they would release those calls April 21. It's unknown why it took an additional 15 days to do so. Here is The Bee's story from today's paper.

-- Matt Barrows

May 7, 2014
Crossover move: One-time hoopsters to be drafted early


Cody Latimer was an aspiring power forward who didn't play football until he was a junior in high school. Mike Evans spent his prep years grabbing rebounds, not receptions. Davante Adams and Bruce Ellington - they went off to college dreaming of becoming basketball stars, not football players.

It turns out their dedication to the hardwood was time well spent.

All four college wide receivers are expected to be taken on either Day 1 or Day 2 of the draft this week, and their basketball experience is very much seen as a bonus. "Generally speaking, the guys with basketball in their background understand a key element of sport, which is spacing," said 49ers general manager Trent Baalke. "They understand how to keep space, and more important, create space. That's not easily learned. That's a natural instinct people have."

The 49ers' locker room already teems with players who insist that had they gotten a break or two - or grown an extra inch or two - they'd be sinking last-second three pointers in the NBA and exchanging barbs with Spike Lee on the sideline.

Michael Crabtree, for example, was a Top 50 basketball recruit in Texas whom then-Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight was gunning to land. When Nevada coaches first saw Colin Kaepernick, it was during a basketball game at Pitman High. His gritty play that evening convinced them he'd be a good fit at quarterback.

May 6, 2014
911 calls in Miami: Players could not get naked woman to leave hotel


The woman at the center of the police investigation in Miami involving 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and two other NFL players referred to herself as "Jesus" and wouldn't leave Kaepernick's hotel room, according to two 911 calls released by Miami police this afternoon.

The calls were made after midnight on April 2. One of them is from hotel security at the Viceroy hotel where Kaepernick, friend Ricardo Lockette and teammate Quinton Patton were staying at the time. The other is from an unidentified man believed to be Lockette, a receiver for the Seahawks. Police previously have said their records show Lockette made two 911 calls at the time complaining of a woman who would not leave their hotel suite.

Both callers said that the woman was naked and inside a bedroom. The first caller, who identifies himself as being from hotel security, told the 911 operator, "She said her name was Jesus, and she don't have no clothes on." He said the woman was screaming and crying. All of the names and phone numbers mentioned in the calls are redacted. Together they last a little more than three minutes.

The other caller, believed to be Lockette, also called and in calm voice said that "there's a young lady in my friend's bed" and that she refused to leave until he returns. Asked if the woman is the friend's boyfriend, the caller said, "No, no, no. He's not her boyfriend. He's just someone she wants to sleep with. ... She says she's going to stay there until he gets back."

May 5, 2014
Beatwriters mock draft: run on CBs, WRs in Round 1

The annual beatwriter mock draft concluded this afternoon, and here are the results. This obviously is a no-trade mock and is designed to give fellow writers an idea of your team's draft needs, possible targets, etc.

  1. HOU Jadeveon Clowney, DE
  2. STL Jake Matthews, T
  3. JAC Sammy Watkins, WR
  4. CLE Khalil Mack, DE
  5. OAK Greg Robinson, T
  6. ATL Taylor Lewan, T
  7. TB Mike Evans, WR
  8. MIN Blake Bortles, QB
  9. BUF Eric Ebron, TE
  10. DET Anthony Barr, OLB
  11. TEN Aaron Donald, DT
  12. NYG Zack Martin, T
  13. STL Darqueze Dennard, CB
  14. CHI Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. S
  15. PIT Justin Gilbert, CB
  16. DAL Johnny Manziel, QB
  17. BAL CJ Mosley, ILB
  18. NYJ Odell Beckham, WR
  19. MIA Ja'Wuan James, T
  20. ARI Calvin Pryor, S
  21. GB Ryan Shazier, OLB
  22. PHI Kyle Fuller, CB
  23. KC Marqise Lee, WR
  24. CIN Bradley Roby, CB
  25. SD Jason Verrett CB
  26. CLE Teddy Bridgewater, QB
  27. NO Brandin Cooks, WR
  28. CAR Kelvin Benjamin, WR
  29. NE Stephon Tuitt, DE
  30. SF Cody Latimer, WR
  31. DEN Kony Ealy, DE
  32. SEA Demarcus Lawrence, DE

All of the draft crush disciples reading right now are familiar with why I chose Latimer with the 30th pick. I definitely can see a scenario in which the 49ers trade ahead, say to Baltimore's No. 17 spot, and take either Odell Beckham or Kyle Fuller.

In this draft, the Top 5 cornerbacks were off the board and six receivers were as well. As I wrote in the mock draft, I could see the 49ers going with a pass rusher in this scenario with Kony Ealy, Dee Ford and Demarcus Lawrence being the likeliest picks. A scenario in which the 49ers traded out of the first round, say with Houston, Jacksonville or Oakland, also would be a possibility. Latimer, Ealy, Ford, Lawrence and the next-rated cornerback would be in play early in the second round as well.

-- Matt Barrows

May 5, 2014
Crystal ball: seven-round stab at 49ers' draft

Ok, ok. The 49ers will not end the draft with the same amount of picks - 11 - with which they begin it. They will move up and down the draft board in a number of rounds, perhaps starting with the first. They'll turn a pick or two into additions selections next year. I understand that. But predicting when those myriad trades will occur is a fool's errand. Instead I'll whet your drafpetite with the types of players the team could select if it hung onto all of its picks.

You'll notice that this is a no-lineman draft. On the defensive line, the team's backups include Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Ian Williams, Demarcus Dobbs, Will Tukuafu and Lawrence Okoye. Offensive line depth isn't quite as vast, but it still includes Jonathan Martin, Adam Snyder, Joe Looney, Al Netter, Carter Bykowski and Luke Marquardt. That is, there doesn't seem to be room for additions at either spot.

1st; 30th overall: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
He's big, fast, tough and is an excellent leaper. Latimer could serve as the heir to either Michael Crabtree's or Anquan Boldin's starting role. Like A.J. Jenkins, he's an underclassman receiver from a Big 10 school (that starts with 'I'). Unlike Jenkins, Latimer's physique is NFL-ready, and at the bare-bones minimum he could serve as special teams coverage player during his rookie season.

2nd, 56th overall: Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
Desir is tall, long-limbed and physical, and he could be the press cornerback Trent Baalke has been looking for in recent years. If Desir is unavailable, there are a slew of others will similar physical skills - Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Keith McGill, Bashaud Breeland to name a few - who likely will be around in the second round.

2nd, 61st overall: Marcus Smith, OLB, Louisville
Smith may not be as powerful as the two players, Aldon Smith and Corey Lemonier, Baalke has drafted at the position in the past. But he is very athletic and still is learning his position. Smith was brought to Louisville to play quarterback, which hints at his intelligence and leadership ability.

3rd, 77th overall: Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
The 49ers could stand to add a short-yardage runner, and the 235-pound Hill fits the description. The 49ers had issues last season when fullback Bruce Miller was lost to injury. Hill has the size and attitude to be a lead blocker, and he has soft hands (18 catches for 181 yards in 2013) as well. He has character concerns that must be checked out.

May 2, 2014
49ers pick up fifth-year option for Aldon Smith


The 49ers went with pragmatism over principle today, opting to pick up the fifth-year option in Aldon Smith's contract that will pay the troubled linebacker nearly $10 million in 2015. The team deliberated until hours before the deadline on the decision because it wanted as much information as possible on Smith's ongoing court cases and perhaps as an attempt to send a message to Smith that they are uncertain about his future.

Smith, 24, is facing charges for a September DUI and for possessing illegal weapons. A hearing earlier this week did not bring a resolution - and with it an indication of how the NFL might punish Smith - and another court date was set for May 12. In addition, the Los Angeles City Attorney's office is considering whether to file misdemeanor charges against Smith after he allegedly made a bomb threat at Los Angeles International Airport last month. A spokesman said a decision may not come for another week. Smith also has been arrested in January 2012 for DUI, charges that were later reduced to reckless driving.

By picking up the so-called "fifth-year option" on Smith's contract, the 49ers will pay him $9.75 million if he is on their roster at the start of the new league year in March. That amount is only guaranteed for an injury that would keep Smith out of action for 2015, and the team can release him at any point until them.

Picking up the option was the practical outcome to the 49ers' dilemma because it gives the team control over Smith, who would have become a free agent in March, for another season. Every player taken ahead of Smith in the talent-laden 2011 draft has had his option picked up.
And while $9.75 million would make him one of the highest-paid players on the team, it's less than the nearly $12 million franchise tag that also was an option as far as retaining Smith for 2015.

May 2, 2014
Draft-savvy? 49ers stand out in league-wide analysis


General manager Trent Baalke has been taking some lumps lately. There's the failed 2012 draft that included first-round pick A.J. Jenkins, who was traded last year to Kansas City. Even Baalke's star-studded 2011 draft class doesn't look quite as bright today following the recent arrests of Aldon Smith (first round) and Chris Culliver (third round).

But take a step back and you'll find that the 49ers, thanks to Baalke and predecessor Scot McCloughan, lead the league in finding players, especially starters, in the draft or as undrafted free agents. According to an analysis by The Boston Globe, the 49ers and Texans have the most draft picks still on the team and that the 49ers have more starters and pro-bowl draftees than any other franchise.

The 49ers have done a particularly good job in the first round with seven of their picks in starting spots. Only the Patriots claim as many, according to the study. San Francisco, however, has only one starter from rounds 5-7 (Bruce Miller). The Seahawks lead the league with five starters from that part of the draft. (The Globe's numbers do not include the 2013 draft. Eric Reid would be the eighth first-round starter; Daniel Kilgore will be another 5-7-round draftee if, as expected, he starts at center this season).

I count 17 drafted players or undrafted free agents currently penciled in for starting spots in 2014 with free-agent pickup Glenn Dorsey getting the nod, in my mind at least, over Ian Williams. Of those 17, six were brought in when McCloughan was in charge of personnel decisions 2005-2009.

Projected defensive starters:
LDE Ray McDonald
LOLB Aldon Smith*
ILB NaVorro Bowman+
ILB Patrick Willis
CB Tramaine Brock
CB Chris Culliver
S Eric Reid

Projected offensive starters:
WR Michael Crabtree
RB Frank Gore
FB Bruce Miller
LT Joe Staley
LG Mike Iupati
C Daniel Kilgore
RG Alex Boone
RT Anthony Davis
TE Vernon Davis
QB Colin Kaepernick

-- Matt Barrows

May 1, 2014
Rank & file: How the draft's top WRs stack up


There are 13 wide receivers expected to be taken in the first two rounds of the draft. Here's a statistical breakdown in how they rank, followed by an admittedly incomplete tally at the end.

Receptions in 2013:
Davante Adams: 131 (13 games played)
Brandin Cooks: 128 (13)
Jordan Matthews: 112 (13)
Sammy Watkins: 101 (13)
Allen Robinson: 97 (12)
Jarvis Landry: 77 (13)
Cody Latimer: 72 (12)
Mike Evans: 69 (13)
Odell Beckham: 59 (13)
Donte Moncrief: 59 (13)
Marqise Lee: 57 (11)
Kelvin Benjamin: 54 (14)
Martavis Bryant: 42 (13)

Yards per game:
Cooks: 133.1
Adams: 132.2
Robinson: 119.3
Matthews: 113.6
Watkins: 112.6
Evans: 107.2
Landry: 91.8
Latimer: 91.3
Beckham: 88.6
Benjamin: 72.2
Moncrief: 72.2
Lee: 71.9
Bryant: 63.7


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.


May 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Monthly Archives

Ask a question

Please use the form below to submit your question. Because there is a 100-word limit for questions, a word counter is located directly beneath the box where you enter the your question.


49ers Question:

Your letter contains of 100 words allowed.  Count words

Your IP Address has been recorded as and will be included with this submission.