The final four draft picks from the Baalke Film Festival: Colin Jones, Bruce Miller, Mike Person and Curtis Holcomb:
COLIN JONES, S, TCU (Sixth round, No. 190 overall)
We saw Jones return an interception for a touchdown and collect a sack, but that’s not what the Niners expect him to be doing, at least not initially, in the NFL.
Jones was, in effect, a gift to special teams coordinator Brad Seely, who has generally had two or three special-teams-only stalwarts during his decorated career as an assistant. Baalke said the 6-foot, 208-pound Jones, who has 4.4 speed, has the potential to become an “elite” special-teams player.
“You see on film that he loves special teams,” Baalke said. “He’s the first guy down and he loves contact … We’re going to throw him into the mix at strong safety, but his path to making this football team is on special teams.”
As Jones’ film was frozen on the screen, Baalke discussed the importance of later-round draft picks being able to find a niche on the team. In addition to playing on special teams, Baalke said Jones could have a role as a dime linebacker on defense – a position former safety Michael Lewis had in the past.
It figures to take time for Jones to develop on defense, but he could make an immediate impact on special teams.
“They show up right away,” Baalke of star special-teams players.
BRUCE MILLER, FB, CENTRAL FLORIDA (Seventh round, No. 211 overall)
Baalke has a few names for most NFL fullbacks: “Try-hard players” and, my favorite, “dirty birds.”
“The majority of guys that are fullbacks in the National Football League,” he said, “there’s nothing special about them.”
With that in mind, meet Bruce Miller, who Baalke believes has the stuff to be among the dirtiest of dirty birds. Miller (6-1, 248) was a decorated defensive end at UCF – a two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year – but he doesn’t have great size or speed.
On his highlight reel, Miller kept bull-rushing tackles until he eventually discovered a quarterback for one his 35.5 career sacks. As Miller did his thing, Baalke noted, with admiration, how he got to the quarterback with more tenacity than talent.
“There’s nothing overwhelming about the rush here,” Baalke said as Miller kept driving his legs. “… This guy gets a lot of his production with effort.”
Baalke said Miller’s defensive-end-to-fullback transition isn’t unique. Former Stanford defensive end Erik Lorig moved to fullback during the middle of his rookie season in Tampa Bay last year.
Baalke said Miller has the size, speed and smarts to make the move. Most importantly, though, he has the try-hard gene.
“He is wired the way we want our guys wired,”Baalke said. “This guy is wired right. He plays the game 100 percent, every snap.”
MIKE PERSON, G/C, MONTANA STATE (Seventh round, No. 239 overall)
Baalke has a history with small-college offensive lineman. As an assistant coach with South Dakota State in the early 90s, he promoted future All-Pro guard Adam Timmerman to NFL scouts. Timmerman was also a seventh-round pick – the 230th selection in the 1995 draft.
So how does Baalke evaluate players who are competing against inferior competition? For example, in the first clip of Person we saw him lined up against Sacramento State before a crowd of about 17.
“You’re looking for a guy that does not lose very often at this level of competition,” Baalke said. “You want somebody who dominates and makes it look easy.”
Baalke said Person did that while highlighted his balance, nimble feet and “willingness to finish blocks.”
CURTIS HOLCOMB, CB, FLORIDA A&M (Seventh round, No. 250 overall)
Baalke smiled as he began talking about Holcomb. He seemed to enjoy the fact that ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper was fumbling through his papers after the 49ers made this pick – Kiper didn’t even have Holcomb rated.
So why, exactly, did the 49ers take a flyer on this guy? The story behind the pick was among the most interesting of the film session.
Director of player personnel Tom Gamble noted that Holcomb had what the 49ers term a “plus workout” at his pro day. Baalke didn’t get into the specifics of what a “plus workout” is, but it’s obviously an indication of an impressive performance.
The Niners compiled a list of “plus workout” players and then had their pro staff do film research on them. If the staff believed the player was worthy of a cut-up, they passed that film along to Baalke and Gamble, who reviewed it.
This led them to investigate Holcomb, who, they discovered, was an impressive athlete with eye-popping intangibles. Why not sign him up with a seventh-round pick?
“He was a four-time captain,” Baalke said. “You want to talk about wired right? I don’t think anyone in our building had ever heard of that.”