SANTA CLARA — Here is the transcript of Trent Baalke’s post-Round-1 press conference, courtesy of the 49ers public relations department.
Can you talk about what happened at 15? Obviously, Armstead still on the board, Kevin Johnson. Were both of those guys considerations and that is what enabled you to drop two spots down?
“First of all, you never trade back unless you have a alternative plan in mind. We felt good about two players. Arik was the one that we were coveting at that pick. But at the same time, you never trade back unless you know that if your guy is taken, you have a plan b. When Miami was on the clock, I was on the clock with San Diego. If their guy wasn’t picked, we had already executed the trade in principle. And when their guy wasn’t picked, we just went through with it.”
Can you say whether or not Kevin Johnson was the other guy you were considering?
“I wouldn’t tell you how our board was stacked, Matt [Barrows]. That would be a death sentence for us.”
What do you like about Armstead and what jumped out about him to you?
“Like I said earlier, he is unique in the sense that he is 6’7”. He’s 295 plus pounds. He runs in the five-flat range. He is a tremendous athlete for his size and for that position. Four techniques are hard to find in the National Football League. True four techniques are guys that can two gap, play with leverage, leverage blocks and control the line of scrimmage. That is a big part of what we do here. In any given draft, there are four or five, I’m not sure that we’ve ever had more than five on our board that we felt were draftable. Certainly, there are more guys that can play it. Guys that we truly covet as draftable players, I’d have to go back and look at each board. I believe no more than five.”
How do you explain his lack of sack totals? Does that bother you at all?
“Well, I am not going to compare. You don’t compare guys over history. And I’m certainly not going to compare him to other players that have come through. If you go back, Tim [Kawakami] and look through some of the guys that have been picked that play that technique and the way they play it in college. To have one-and-a-half or two-and-a-half sacks in a season isn’t unspeakable. It does happen. There have been some good football players, and I think if anyone goes back and takes a look, you’ll see there have been some awfully good football players that have played that technique in college, and haven’t been real productive in terms of sacks. There are other ways to measure production, and I think if you looked as the season went on, he got healthier. He got more experience. He played more football. He played his best two games last against Florida State and Ohio State.”
You say he plays the four technique and he is obviously very athletic. He is sort of limited in the amount he played when he played two sports until his junior year when he focused just on football. How polished for how much football he has played is he in that technique? Is he still a little raw?
“Well, I think you see when they come into the National Football League, to really get the techniques down to play that position the way our guys have to play it, there is a learning curve. You don’t just walk into the National Football League and play defensive line in our defense or some other defenses in this league that play true two gap defense. First of all, you don’t find many colleges that do it. The unique this is that up at Oregon, they do a lot of similar things that we do. The learning curve for him should be a little bit quicker. But at the same time, there is a lot of development that has to take place.”
Because he just became a full time starter last year, you don’t have reams of tape of him compared to some other guys. Obviously, you are confident in the pick. Is part of that because of his unique physical skills?
“Once again, I maintain that they are hard to find. You talk to people in this league that do what we do in the evaluation process and you need those guys to play the type of defense we play. And without them, you can’t play this defense. So, he’s a young man that we identified that has the traits, has the skill sets, has the want-to to play it the way we want to play it.”
Why are they so hard to find?
“How many 6’7”, 295 men do they make? Chris Canty is one. There just aren’t many. A lot of them are playing basketball, which this young man did for several years before committing to football full time. You’ve got a young man who hasn’t spent a ton of time in the weight room. He’s been on the courts. You’ve got a young man that hasn’t started a lot of games. He chose to come out early. There is going to be some development to this process, but we are well aware of that and feel very confident that he’s going to come in and learn how to strain and play at this level.”
How quickly then would you expect him to make an impact?
“We don’t put a time frame on any of that. That’s really up to the individual. How hard they’re willing to work. We feel very confident that we’ve got a good group of defensive lineman in here already. None of those guys who are watching this, or maybe watching this right now, are thinking that he is going to walk in and take their job. I promise you that. Arik is going to have to come in here and he is going to have to earn every rep that he gets. No different than any other player that’s ever been drafted here.”
Is this an indication that you don’t believe Justin Smith will be playing next year?
“Matt [Maiocco],I wouldn’t say that. I said earlier on the radio, we gave Justin liberty to, and I said this to many of you the last time we met, we gave Justin liberty to make his own decision on his time frame. We went into the draft not thinking about what decision Justin’s going to make or not going to make. We just went in to find the best football player, the best system fit that we could at pick 15. It just so happens we traded back and it’s pick 17. ”
With him, do you have to project more than maybe the other guys who went in the first round, just based on his production in that last year at Oregon?
“I don’t think so. You look at the first round, I don’t have the board in front of me right now, but there’s always projections. This is a draft that you are going to have to develop these guys. And one thing we have to remember with these guys is, first of all they’re young. There coming into a whole different game. The college programs are only getting 20 hours a week to work with these young guys. And to come into the National Football League and play a skill position is difficult. To come in your first year, first game out of the chutes. To come into the National Football League and line up on the line of scrimmage, that’s a whole different animal. So, there is growth that has to take place with all of these young men and he’s no different.”
What did he do in those last two games that really stood out for you and did you see him play here for the Pac-12 title?
“I saw him play live twice this year. I did see him versus Arizona here. I also saw him, I can’t remember the game, up there. I saw him play twice. The first time I saw him play up there he was playing on a bad ankle. He got injured early in the season against Michigan State. Suffered a high ankle sprain. There were some films that weren’t what you would expect to see. As the season went on and he got healthier, once again the Ohio State game, I believe he had nine tackles in that game. For any of us that have coached d-line, and I have, you look at that and say, when you are playing a true four technique in a read scheme, and you’re not playing to the ball, that’s a lot of production for a four technique.”
This is the first time in a while that the player most associated with the 49ers pick before the mock drafts has been the guy selected. Did you notice that? Did it bother you a little bit that the guy you liked was associated with you so heavily?
“I needed to appease the media.”
“I looked at what you guys were recommending, and ladies, and it was a consensus for the most part that he was going to be the pick. So I figured, it’s my only shot to get you on my side.”
Does that unsettle you when the guy you like is being talked about so much associated with you?
“No, because it really worked to our favor this year because in some respects for the last few years as you mentioned, everyone that we were associated with, we never picked. Right? So now this year, we are associated with this young man, and we picked him. In some ways, it worked in our favor a little bit because the national media as well, put Arik down as a strong consideration. I think if you watched NFL Network, all the mock drafts they had, I think six of the seven or five of the six individuals that do that had him in that slot. It’s just how it played out this year.”
You talked earlier about how you coveted him at 15. How rewarding or satisfying is it then to still get your guy, but then also get two more draft picks out of the whole situation with that trade?
“We always talk about value. When the trade became available, we looked at each other, Coach and I, is it worth the risk? Do we want to take a chance, move back two spots, pick up two additional picks, one this year and one next year, and hope that our guy continues to fall? At the same time, we were prepared to make another pick as well. When I say covet, we had five or six guys that we were really looking at, at that spot. Five or six guys you could say that we coveted at that spot. And he was one of those five or six. It is just how the board fell. And there was no movement up front as all of you saw. There were no trades. And it wasn’t for a lack of effort. There were people calling and we were doing our due diligence as well. It was tough trying to get anywhere.”
What are your impressions of the new look uniform?
“Bob [Lange], you were dead. You said that they were going to ask this question. To be honest with you, I caught a glimpse of them. I wasn’t out on the practice field today when they unveiled them. I was in the draft room. I haven’t seen the video footage yet. I have seen them. It is going to be interesting. It is going to obviously be a new look. A look that hasn’t ever been here. We are traditionalist. But it is the way of the times. We’re excited. I know one thing, the players are excited. And if they are excited, that makes us excited.”