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Baalke on the 2014 draft and draft philosophy

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Posted: 05/29/2014 2:50 PM

Baalke on the 2014 draft and draft philosophy 


This is a nice article focusing on the 49ers' 2014 draft and getting Baalke's thoughts on the selections and his thinking about his process.


Baalke was hired by then 49ers-general manager Scot McCloughan in 2005 as a regional scout. McCloughan left the team five years later after drafting many of the team's core players, but one of his legacies is how the 49ers front office still places so much emphasis on how players performed in games. "If I learned anything in all the time we spent together it's the value of the film, trust the tape," said Baalke, who still considers McCloughan a good friend. "Some of these guys can fool you. They can go to the combine and run faster than you expect, they can look a lot more athletic in the shuttles than they maybe are. But the eye in the sky doesn't lie. That's one thing I always appreciated about Scot. It was about the film and the makeup of the player."

Before the draft, Baalke talked about how Jerry Rice, the greatest receiver in history, ran a 4.59 40-yard dash. That number isn't remarkable, yet no one ever saw him caught from behind.

So along comes Borland. The Wisconsin linebacker is 5-foot-11 with 29 ¼ inch arms. He runs a 4.78 40-yard dash. His vertical jump is 31 inches. And a lot of teams are picking holes in him. "His arms aren't long enough, he doesn't run fast enough, he doesn't jump high enough," Baalke said. "Whatever the case is, you turn on the film and he's making plays. Is he an exception to our rule relative to the physical traits of the position? In some ways, yes. But at the inside linebacker position, the No. 1 criteria is 'do they make plays?'"


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Posted: 05/29/2014 3:56 PM

Re: Baalke on the 2014 draft and draft philosophy 


Cannot wait to see this 2014 draft class play.   Excited about pretty much everybody they selected.  Borland was a monster at Wisconsin, all he did is make plays.  Check out his stat line from last year compared to the number 2 guy.   Led team in TFL and second in sacks.  Basically he makes plays everywhere.

Tackles Def Int Fumbles Rk Player Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
1Chris Borland72391118.54.021
2Michael Caputo3627633.00.03
3Ethan Armstrong3318515.02.02
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Posted: 05/29/2014 4:11 PM

Re: Baalke on the 2014 draft and draft philosophy 


Yeah, Borland will be very interesting. His measureables don't suggest NFL success, but his instincts and intelligence do. "Playing fast" is a relevant issue, especially with linebackers where reading keys is so crucial. A linebacker who diagnoses a play quickly can be in position to make a play faster than someone with much greater speed and athleticism who can't read the action as quickly.

If you get both the measureables and smarts, you end up with Patrick Willis and it's probably safe to say that Borland will never be all-world like Willis. But he can still be pretty good.
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Posted: 05/29/2014 4:34 PM

Re: Baalke on the 2014 draft and draft philosophy 



Minstrel wrote: 
A linebacker who diagnoses a play quickly can be in position to make a play faster than someone with much greater speed and athleticism who can't read the action as quickly.
You're right about this, but it should be noted that Borland's issue is not necessarily speed. 4.78 is not super quick, but it's also not 5.05 Brandon Spikes slow (and Spikes has proven to be just fine playing in the NFL, albeit with a limited range as compared to some other MLB. The concern with Borland is size more than speed/athleticism. The number of LB that have succeeded in the NFL at under 6'0 and with arms of shorter than 30' is a very, very short list. 

I believe in the "eye in the sky" theory that Baalke learned from McCloughan, but I also believe that there is truth to certain metrics that suggest the probability of success for players that fall outside the normal 'ranges' for size, speed, etc. Bill Polian spent some time discussing this with Gil Brandt and Alex Marvez on their SiriusXM radio show, and Polian noted that these ranges will differ from team to team, and some teams adhere to these religiously, while others don't emphasize it as much. Brandt noted that it's important to know what you want (a point referenced in the article about how the 49ers look at scheme fit very closely), because if you don't, you'll be making exceptions to your rule, and (as he said Tom Landry used to say) pretty soon, you'll have a team full of exceptions and no rules. 

I think we can assume that the 49ers do not have a strict size, length criteria (despite Matthew Barrows noting how Baalke loves long armed players) based on some of their picks over the past several years, and that they do value production.

Borland will be an interesting player to watch. I'm hoping for his success, and I would tend to side with the "you gotta love how he plays on film" side of the equation. If he doesn't have quite the success we all are hoping for, I'm curious to know how it might affect (if at all) Baalke's evaluation process in the future.
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Posted: 05/30/2014 3:18 AM

Re: Baalke on the 2014 draft and draft philosophy Post Rating (1 vote)


Borland's situation makes me think of a few very well known sayings:

- you can't measure the size of his heart
- it's not about the size of the dog in the fight, it's about the size of the fight in the dog
- it's always darkest before the dawn
- you can lead a horse to water, but the early bird gets the worm
- people who live in glass houses, shouldn't throw stones.....or masturbate during the daytime.

that is all.

"You are either getting better or you are getting worse; you never stay the same."

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Posted: 05/30/2014 4:57 AM

Re: Baalke on the 2014 draft and draft philosophy Post Rating (1 vote)


And...Counting cards isn't illegal, it's like masturbating on a plane.  It's frown upon but not illegal. tongue

LoneStar Niner
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Posted: 05/30/2014 8:11 AM

Re: Baalke on the 2014 draft and draft philosophy Post Rating (1 vote)



higherwarrior wrote: 

- people who live in glass houses, shouldn't throw stones.....or masturbate during the daytime.

..or fondle inanimate statues in public. wink

BTW - I didn't know you lived in a glass house?
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Posted: 05/30/2014 8:15 AM

Re: Baalke on the 2014 draft and draft philosophy Post Rating (2 votes)



pudding wrote:

BTW - I didn't know you lived in a glass house?

i don't. anymore. some lessons you have to learn the hard way. (no pun intended)

"You are either getting better or you are getting worse; you never stay the same."

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Posted: 05/30/2014 10:17 AM

Re: Baalke on the 2014 draft and draft philosophy 


Bill Walsh said that Hacksaw Reynolds was the slowest MLB he'd ever seen, but his first step was always in the right direction.  Watch the first series in the '84 Superbowl--37 years old, slower than dirt and still made the play behind the line of scrimmage. 
pudding wrote:
Minstrel wrote: 
A linebacker who diagnoses a play quickly can be in position to make a play faster than someone with much greater speed and athleticism who can't read the action as quickly.
You're right about this, but it should be noted that Borland's issue is not necessarily speed. 4.78 is not super quick, but it's also not 5.05 Brandon Spikes slow (and Spikes has proven to be just fine playing in the NFL, albeit with a limited range as compared to some other MLB. The concern with Borland is size more than speed/athleticism. The number of LB that have succeeded in the NFL at under 6'0 and with arms of shorter than 30' is a very, very short list. 

I believe in the "eye in the sky" theory that Baalke learned from McCloughan, but I also believe that there is truth to certain metrics that suggest the probability of success for players that fall outside the normal 'ranges' for size, speed, etc. Bill Polian spent some time discussing this with Gil Brandt and Alex Marvez on their SiriusXM radio show, and Polian noted that these ranges will differ from team to team, and some teams adhere to these religiously, while others don't emphasize it as much. Brandt noted that it's important to know what you want (a point referenced in the article about how the 49ers look at scheme fit very closely), because if you don't, you'll be making exceptions to your rule, and (as he said Tom Landry used to say) pretty soon, you'll have a team full of exceptions and no rules. 

I think we can assume that the 49ers do not have a strict size, length criteria (despite Matthew Barrows noting how Baalke loves long armed players) based on some of their picks over the past several years, and that they do value production.

Borland will be an interesting player to watch. I'm hoping for his success, and I would tend to side with the "you gotta love how he plays on film" side of the equation. If he doesn't have quite the success we all are hoping for, I'm curious to know how it might affect (if at all) Baalke's evaluation process in the future.
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