Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati, last year’s first-round picks, became instant starters.
Can the 49ers do the same with Missouri’s Aldon Smith?
After listening to general manager Trent Baalke tonight, it sounds as if the Niners are prepared to be somewhat patient as Smith transitions from a college defensive end to a 3-4 NFL outside linebacker.
Baalke noted that the transition, in general, is difficult. And he indirectly suggested, more than once, there could be a higher degree of difficulty for Smith, 21, who is arriving at the next level after two college seasons.
A sampling from Baalke:
• “He’s young. We understand that it’s going to be a learning process.”
• “Obviously, once again, he’s young. There are growing pains that go along with that.”
• “This is a young guy. He’s (21) years old. We’re not expecting for him to come in here and be a superstar from day one. Like I said, there’s a learning curve.”
• “He’s raw and he’s certainly going to be raw when it comes to playing on his feet and learning his position, but (we) feel good, once again, about the potential in that area.”
While Baalke, obviously, stressed Smith’s inexperience, he also stated his learning curve could mirror those of Davis and Iupati, season-opening starters in 2010.
“We feel very good about the pick, very good about him developing sooner rather than later,” he said. “We’re not looking at this as a project. This is a guy that has a lot of talent that we’re going to get on the field and get into the rotation as we quickly as we can.”
• The Niners talked trade with at least four teams – Baalke termed them “serious discussions” – but couldn’t find a suitable partner for the No. 7 pick. Baalke said they looked into moving up or back from their first-round spot.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen tweeted that San Francisco tried to move back into the “11-13” range. Presumably, the Niners were still looking to select Smith at that spot while netting a draft pick or two.
“At the end of the day, all the teams that were in and around us just wanted to stand pat,” Baalke said. “So there just wasn’t an opportunity to do anything.”
San Francisco spoke with Atlanta, which moved up 20 spots to grab Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones at No. 6. Baalke said the Falcons dealt with the Browns to ensure they got Jones.
• Baalke, like Harbaugh, took note of Smith’s desire to get back on the field after breaking his fibula last year.
“That does show you something about his character and his will,” he said.