The 49ers' strategy for sustainability involves loading up on draft picks and always having an influx of young players who can replace expensive, soon-to-be free-agent talent. Last year, Trent Baalke appeared to hit the jackpot when he traded Alex Smith to the Chiefs for not one but two early-round draft picks.
How have those picks panned out? You be the judge.
The first draft pick was the No. 34 selection in the 2013 draft. Baalke traded down from that spot and obtained the 40th (2nd round) and 216 (7th round) picks in that year's draft as well as the 77th pick (3rd round) in the 2014 draft. He later packaged a third-round pick and the 216th pick to move ahead to the 88th pick in the third round. The results:
No. 40, DE Tank Carradine
He has yet to play any meaningful snaps in an NFL game. He sat out his rookie season while coming back from an ACL tear suffered at Florida State. He is currently the last of seven players on the defensive-line depth chart because, in Carradine's view, he doesn't have a complete grasp of the playbook. Still, Carradine played more snaps than any 49ers lineman in the preseason and played very well.
No. 88, OLB Corey Lemonier
He looked full of potential last year when he filled in for Aldon Smith. This year, however, he's already been replaced with a 2014 fifth-round pick, Aaron Lynch. Lemonier added very little to the 49ers' pass rush that again is without Smith. He hasn't had a sack since Oct. 13 of last year.
No. 77 (2014), ILB Chris Borland
He came on strong in the preseason. But even with NaVorro Bowman out for half the season, Borland is limited to a special teams role because Michael Wilhoite has played so well. Wilhote is scheduled to be an exclusive rights free agent in March.
Smith led the previously woebegone Chiefs to the playoffs last year. That Kansas City finished better than .500 meant that the second draft pick the Chiefs sent to the 49ers improved from a third- to a second-round pick, No. 56. Baalke packaged that pick to eventually get the No. 57 pick and Denver's fourth-round pick in May 2015.
No. 57, RB Carlos Hyde
He has cooled off some after a promising outing in Week 1. Still, considering Marcus Lattimore's lingering knee issue, Hyde looks very much like the heir to Frank Gore, who is entering the final year of his contract.