The next four draft picks from the Baalke Film Festival: Chris Culliver, Kendall Hunter, Daniel Kilgore and Ronald Johnson …
CHRIS CULLIVER, CB, SOUTH CAROLINA (Third round, No. 80 overall)
A fan of sarcastic humor in your films? The opening to the Chris Culliver highlight reel was for you.
“Here’s the projection to corner,” Baalke said dryly as Culliver appeared on the screen. “He happens to be just in this game playing corner.”
Baalke, obviously, is at least mildly irritated by the suggestion that the 49ers will be trying Culliver out at a new position in the NFL. He did play cornerback as a senior – just ask Baalke – but he only made seven college starts at the position (and 24 at safety).
So why not just draft a cornerback who played primarily cornerback in college? Baalke made it clear why he locked on to Culliver.
“He’s a 6-foot-plus corner who runs in the low 4.4s,” he said. “Those guys are hard to find.”
Two clips of Culliver showed him coming up strong in run support. He sniffed out a screen pass against Alabama (although this blogger noted he could have wrapped up a bit better) and we later saw him hurtling his body into a pile to take out a running back’s legs on a sweep.
Baalke noted that Culliver, the former safety, closes with quickness and isn’t afraid of contact.
“We liked that he played both safety and corner,” he said. “To me, that’s a positive. Not a negative.”
• Culliver played in the SEC, the home of top-10 picks in Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green and Alabama wideout Julio Jones. How did he compete against them?
“He competed OK,” Baalke said. “Did he shut them down? No. But did (LSU cornerback) Patrick Peterson shut them down. No. Those are great players.”
I’m not sure Culliver was always matched up against Jones when South Carolina played Alabama, but Jones had eight catches for 118 yards in the game (Jones had 10 catches for 89 yards and a TD against LSU). Culliver and Peterson did not face Green this past season.
KENDALL HUNTER, RB, OKLAHOMA STATE (Fourth round, No. 115 overall)
At 5-7, Hunter looks like a third-down back, but Baalke says he’s capable of adding the other three downs to his workload.
“We’re not looking at him as a change-of-pace back,” he said. “We think he’s a four-down back.”
As Hunter ran all over Washington State, Baalke ticked off what Hunter could do – run between the tackles, get to the edge, pass protect, return kicks and catch the ball out of the backfield. Baalke was asked about that last quality – Hunter only had 63 catches in 46 games at Oklahoma State. He said it was function of Oklahoma State’s offense and that Hunter erased any doubts about his pass-catching ability at the Senior Bowl.
Hunter doesn’t possess elite speed, but he showed some serious quickness and burst as we continued to watch him humiliate Washington State (after watching this film clip I had to look it up … Hunter had 257 yards on 21 carries and scored four touchdowns in a 65-17 win over Cougars).
Granted, the 199-pound Hunter won’t get to play Wazzou on Sundays, but he looks like a potential fourth-round steal – good feet and excellent vision combined with surprising strength and ability to finish off runs.
DANIEL KILGORE, G/C, APPALACHIAN STATE (Fifth round, No. 163 overall)
Kilgore (6-3, 308) played left tackle in college, but is too small to survive outside in the NFL.
Baalke said the move inside will require Kilgore to make more adjustments – blitzes, stunts etc. – but he’s mentally capable of making the transition.
Baalke had previously mentioned that he was particularly impressed by Kilgore’s performance against Florida, but we only saw one clip of Kilgore against the Gators.
On a screen pass, Kilgore hustled 20 yards downfield and pancaked a Florida safety. Baalke conceded the obvious – Kilgore wasn’t flattening someone his own size – but said the clip displayed some of the linemen’s best traits.
“He’s a tough guy,” Baalke said, “and he finishes blocks.”
Kilgore will play both guard and center because it will give him added value. Baalke said there isn’t much sense in having a player who is only a backup guard on a 45-man roster. He cited Adam Snyder, who is capable of playing all five positions on the line, as a lineman with supreme value.
By the way, Baalke got off a funny when asked about what player Kilgore was lined up against when he played so well against the Gators.
“Florida’s right defensive end,” he said.
The more specific answer: Kilgore was lined up, at least on occasion, against Gators backup William Green, who had his only sack of the season against Appalachian State.
RONALD JOHNSON, WR, USC (Sixth round, No. 182 overall)
All NFL general managers must say this, but I’ll pass it along anyway: Baalke was surprised Johnson was still around in the sixth round.
“At this point in the draft, he was too good a value to turn down,” he said.
In fairness, Johnson was projected to be a mid-round pick. He is expected to play primarily in the slot and Baalke raved about his “wiring” – code for his passion and understanding of the game.
Johnson doesn’t have game-breaking speed, but he was fast enough to blow by some Virginia Tech safety he burned for a long touchdown pass.
Johnson, a slot receiver who can return punts, seems eerily similar to Kyle Williams, a sixth-round selection last year. Baalke said the Niners were in some ways planning for the future with this pick. Depending on the NFL rules, both Ted Ginn and Josh Morgan could be unrestricted free agents after the 2011 season.
In the meantime, however, will the 49ers keep three
cookie-cutter similarly sized wide receivers in Johnson (5-10, 185), Ginn (5-11, 180) and Williams (5-11, 186)? Baalke said they will if all three players prove they are good enough to earn a spot. He said the backups better be competitive on special teams.
In Johnson’s favor, he averaged 14.2 yards on 22 punts returns, ranking 12th in the nation, as a senior.