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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 1, 2010

NFL: 49ersí personnel chief breaks down teamís draft picks

By Daniel Brown
San Jose Mercury News

SANTA CLARA, Calif. ó A day before the 49ers rookies hit the practice field, team director of player personnel Trent Baalke sat in a darkened film room watching their college highlights one last time.

Armed with a remote control in one hand and a laser pointer in the other, the director of player personnel explained ó sometimes in minute detail ó why each player became a target of the 49ers' draft boards.

The DVD could have been labeled, "Coming Attractions." See those quick feet? See those hips turn? See the way he finishes the block?

During the course of nearly an hour and a half, Baalke hit rewind until it became clear.

He acknowledged that this highlight film had an alternate ending, a version in which each player made youthful mistakes. But on Thursday, it was all about the reasons for the 49ers' optimism.

You've heard of "The Blind Side?" This was "The Upside."

Here are the highlights from Baalke's player-by-player video review:

T Anthony Davis, Rutgers (11th overall): Watching the left tackle fire off the line of scrimmage against South Florida, Baalke marveled at the big man's nimbleness. "Watch the foot energy," he said.

Baalke blasted the red dot from his laser pointer onto Davis' shoes to show how quickly the 323-pounder moves on the snap. Baalke said that lesser offensive linemen need a beat or two to respond; Davis is practically in sync with the center. "He's got this great foot quickness. And when it's a big man with strength, he can move people off the ball. That's what we're looking for," Baalke said.

Once Davis is out in space, defenders can't get around him. Baalke shows a clip against Texas Southern in which Davis drives his defender 10 yards off the line.

"He's got the strength to stonewall people," Baalke said.

G Mike Iupati, Idaho (No. 17 overall): "You'll see in this video why, in our opinion, this guy has a chance to be special," Baalke said. He says that just as Iupati sends a helpless Utah State defender sprawling to the ground. "Now, you can say that he's not going to face a guy like that in the NFL," Baalke said of the overmatched defensive lineman. "But that's still a 270-pound man that he's basically tossing around with one hand."

S Taylor Mays, USC (No. 49): Baalke shows a series of plays that demonstrate Mays' astonishing speed, including a red zone play against Cal in which Mays gets out of position, then recovers by racing across the back line of the end zone for a leaping interception. But Baalke points out room for improvement, too. Clip after clip shows that Mays too often uses a shoulder tackle rather than wrapping up. "In the NFL, if you're not wrapping, they're still running," Baalke said.

LB Navorro Bowman, Penn State (No. 91): One of the most impressive plays for Bowman isn't a tackle but how he got there. The linebacker is chasing down an Indiana quarterback as a blocker closes in. Without so much as looking at the blocker, Bowman sidesteps to the right and keeps running. "That shows you that he has a feel for the game," Baalke said. "He makes the adjustments all while keeping his eye on the guy with the ball. He's quick with his eyes and he's quick with his feet."

RB Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State (No. 173): Baalke hits rewind several times to show Dixon accelerating through a small crease against the Alabama defensive line. "An old scout named Red Cochrane once said that when an NFL back decides to go, it should look like you sped up the film for a second," he said. Indeed, Dixon finds another gear and breaks through for a big gain. Baalke said that Dixon will need to learn to run like a big back (Dixon is 6-0, 233) since the shifty moves that worked in college won't translate in the NFL.

TE Nate Byham, Pittsburgh (No. 182): There's not much scintillating material to show for a blocking tight end. But Baalke points to Byham's ability to tie up defenders by using balanced footwork and a 6-4, 268-pound frame. "It's not pretty, but it's all you need," Baalke said. "He seals the guy, rolls his hips, keeps his foot moving and does just enough to soften the edge and give his guy room to run."

WR Kyle Williams, Arizona State (No. 206). Williams is a 5-10, 186-pound slot receiver and Baalke shows a clip of him changing direction on a dime to shake a cornerback. "See how he sticks his foot and, boom, he's out of the break?" Baalke said. "In the NFL, the quarterback has only a split second to see if a guy is open. Hopefully, this guy creates that for Alex (Smith) as he develops."

CB Phillip Adams, South Carolina State (No. 224): Adams makes what looks like an easy interception, but Baalke said it was easy only because Adams correctly played the ball, not the receiver. "His eyes never leave the QB," Baalke said.

And, with that, the film wound to a close. It's back to the real thing during the 49ers' three-day, weekend rookie minicamp at the team's Santa Clara facility.