Harbaugh: ‘The plan for Alex is unchanged’

This and that from the second day of the NFL draft:

• Colin Kaepernick’s arrival in San Francisco in no way signals Alex Smith’s departure.

Smith was one of a group of roughly 15 players to visit the Niners’ facility Friday prior to the reinstatement of the NFL lockout and he met with Harbaugh.

“The plan for Alex is unchanged,” Harbaugh said. “Everything that we’ve said from the very beginning; we want to get the best players on our roster that we possibly can, then throw out the balls and let them compete. Alex has the ability and the license to be the starting quarterback … The same goes for Colin. Guys run on their own gas. That’s what we believe. We believe in competition. We believe in earning positions around here.”

But will Smith want to earn his spot in San Francisco, where, at best, he’ll be keeping the seat warm while Kaepernick develops? The NFL’s labor situation obviously clouds the situation, but Smith could potentially sign with another team (Arizona? Seattle?) where he wouldn’t have a hotshot rookie on his heels.

Still, the circumstantial evidence suggests Smith wants to stay put. Why else is he meeting with Harbaugh, a coach with whom he’s apparently struck up a kinship?

“It was just good being around Alex again today,” Harbaugh said.

• Harbaugh was asked about Kaepernick being used in the Wildcat formation as a rookie.

Kaepernick, the only quarterback in NCAA history with three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons, averaged 6.9 yards a carry during his career. He ran over and around Cal – rushing for 148 yards on 17 carries and scoring three touchdowns – in a 52-31 win last year.

Harbaugh didn’t spell out whether his new quarterback would line up in the Wildcat. But he suggested Kaepernick’s athleticism would allow the Niners to open up their offensive playbook.

“We have QB-driven runs in our scheme,” Harbaugh said. “Are we that kind of team? Yes. We are that kind of team. Are we a three-step, drop-back team? Yes. Are we a play-action team? Yes. Are we a move-out-of-the-pocket team, absolutely. Definitely. Colin has arm talent, has athletic ability. He has all the capabilities to really run anything that we ask him to do.”

• There are few NFL-ready rookies and the 49ers don’t appear to have any with their first three picks.

Aldon Smith could prove to be an exception, but Baalke has acknowledge he’s “raw” and will face a steep learning curve in transitioning from defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker.

Kaepernick, like most first-year quarterbacks, doesn’t figure to be a season-opening starter.

And then there’s South Carolina’s Chris Culliver, a third-round pick who played seven games in college at cornerback, his position in the NFL. Culliver was a wide receiver as a freshman at South Carolina before moving to free safety.

Baalke highlighted his versatility, but acknowledged his inexperience.

“Well I think coach (Harbaugh) mentioned it earlier, for all of these guys that are learning new positions and whether they played the position at the college level or whether they didn’t, when they come up to the National Football League there’s a learning curve,” Baalke said. “So in some ways it can be beneficial because he doesn’t have maybe as many bad habits as he might have.”

• Is Kaepernick’s delivery too long? Harbaugh suggested his arm strength and ability to make quick reads compensated for any problems with his motion.

“To me, it’s can you process the information,” Harbaugh said. “How long does it take to get the ball out from the time you see the target open, or coming open, until the ball gets to the receiver? He’s very fast in processing that and the ball gets there fast. He’s got the kind of arm strength to really power a ball through a defense … Everybody throws it different. There’s no one perfect way mechanically to throw a football.”

• Are the 49ers done drafting quarterbacks? In light of the labor uncertainty, I’d expect them to draft another signal-caller with one of their final eight picks.

“We’re going to continue to do what our game plan was to bring in the best three quarterbacks possible for our roster,” Baalke said. “So whether we’re done adding to it, through the draft, through free agency, through trades, that remains to be seen. It’s still a fluid situation.”

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