The last time 49ers general manager Trent Baalke took a wide receiver early in the draft, he struck out. A.J. Jenkins, selected 30th overall two years ago, is now with the Chiefs after going without a catch in his lone year with the team. Baalke again will pick at No. 30 this year, and judging from the list of players he flew to Santa Clara for interviews last month, he’s preparing to take another swing at the position early in the draft. The list includes tall receivers like Clemson’s Martavis Bryant, skinny ones such as Colorado’s Paul Richardson, big-bodied receivers like Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin and little ones such as Georgia State’s Albert Wilson. The common thread is that each was known for making plays deep downfield last season. Bryant, for example, averaged nearly 20 yards a reception in 2013, a field-stretching ability that theoretically would complement the gritty, move-the-chains style of Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree and one that coach Jim Harbaugh said in March was a needed element in the team’s offense. Baalke’s task is finding a receiver with speed but also the steely makeup to handle the NFC West, easily the roughest division for wideouts. “They’ve got a little bit of an air about them, a little swagger, if you want to call it that,” Baalke said last month. “You’re looking for confidence. You’re looking for a guy where the stage isn’t too big. You’re looking for strong men, both in how they play and how they come across. It’s a battle out there. When you’re at that position and to try to get yourself freed up in the land of the giants, it’s a battle and you have to be prepared for it, mentally and physically.” Wide receiver, of course, isn’t the 49ers’ only need, and with 11 picks, they should be able to fill the holes on this year’s roster as well as anticipate weaknesses in future years. Teams are allowed to bring in 30 players for predraft visits, a list San Francisco at one time released a week or so before the draft. The 49ers, along with most teams, have become more cloak-and-dagger in their operations, but 20 of the visitors have slipped into the public realm.
49ers eye fleet wide receivers in draft
Sacramento Bee | May 5