SANTA CLARA By the time the NFL draft begins next week, the 49ers will have poured thousands of hours into watching, dissecting and discussing hundreds of college players.
But general manager Trent Baalke said Wednesday it usually takes only a few minutes of watching film to determine whether a player is a keeper.
"I think a lot of times you spend too much time evaluating certain players, and you either make them better than what they are or worse than what they were," Baalke said. "The initial reaction is usually the correct one."
Baalke cited the book "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell, which posits that spontaneous decisions are often more valuable and more accurate than long, drawn-out conclusions.
Baalke said the 49ers typically enter a draft with about 150 players on their board. The normally tight-lipped Baalke went out of character Wednesday by saying the 49ers were eyeing one player in particular with their first-round pick, No. 30 overall, and that they were relatively confident that player still would be available when their turn comes.
That may be a sign Baalke, who will be running his third draft since taking over for Scot McCloughan in 2010, has grown more comfortable in his role. Or he may just be trying to throw other teams off the scent.
And, of course, he didn't reveal the mystery player's name.
"You've got to be prepared to make the pick at 30, which we're prepared to do," he said. "You just see how the board falls. We certainly have more than one person (in mind). But there is one in particular that we feel will be there. And if he is, we'll be prepared to make the pick."
Baalke has seven picks, one in each round, but he's unlikely to finish the draft with the same selections he had beforehand. That's because he's traded up and down in the previous two drafts, including to get offensive tackle Anthony Davis in the first round in 2010 and quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the second round last year.
The 49ers already have received calls from other teams willing to swap picks. But Baalke said most trades are made on the fly, including the one for Kaepernick and the one for guard Daniel Kilgore in the fifth round last year.
"There were several ones that we did last year that we were on the clock when we made the decision," he said. "It's tight, because time is limited.
"I feel if you're prepared, those decisions are very easy to make on draft day."
Baalke said he also knew very quickly that the player the 49ers chose seventh overall last year, linebacker Aldon Smith, had first-round talent.
Sure, the 49ers spent countless hours examining Smith and interviewing former coaches and teammates about him. They even flew him to Santa Clara for a pre-draft visit.
But Baalke said he and director of player personnel Tom Gamble knew Smith was special mere minutes into their initial film study.
"Five minutes into the film last year, my gut was pretty sold that this guy was going to be a good player," Baalke said. "And it's turned out, at least in the short term, as being that."