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COHN: Reid should perform better than last year's first pick

  • Eric Reid, from Louisiana State, and his daughter after being selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the first round of the NFL draft. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

SANTA CLARA

The overriding question for the 49ers in the first round of this year's college draft was not: Who will general manager Trent Baalke pick? Obviously, that was a very important question.

The overriding question was this: Can Baalke atone for putting A.J. Jenkins' name in an envelope in Draft 2012 as his mystery pick, and actually selecting him with the Niners' only first-round pick, the 30th overall, this man who caught no passes last season. One wonders if Baalke jinxed himself by using the wrong kind of envelope, if he dropped the name in a legal-size envelope when a smaller one would have sufficed.

On Thursday night, Baalke selected safety Eric Reid from LSU in the first round. Reid is fast and hits hard and he will help the 49ers.

Does this atone for Jenkins and the envelope?

The answer is. Yes. Sort of.

Let's be clear about this. The Niners need a cornerback more than they need a safety — they need a starting cornerback to be precise. They need a starting cornerback for a million reasons. And they should have done everything — moved boulders, cleared dirt, razed skyscrapers — to trade up for one.

They need a starting cornerback because Carlos Rogers is slow and no longer can cover the slot receiver. Bill Walsh used to dispose of players before they were done. The Niners are holding onto Rogers after he is done.

They need a starting cornerback because Chris Culliver can run with a receiver but, when he has to turn his head and find the ball, he can't find it and, sadly for him, he loses his guy. Plus he got exposed in the Super Bowl.

The other cornerback, Tarell Brown, is a free agent after the upcoming season, and it will be hard for the 49ers to sign him when they also have to sign Colin Kaepernick, Aldon Smith and Mike Iupati, and Michael Crabtree the year after that. All of that takes dough, and there may not be enough dough for Brown.

They need a starting cornerback because, in free agency, the Seahawks got speed-burner wide receiver Percy Harvin, and the Rams aggressively traded up to get speed-burner wide receiver Tavon Austin with the eighth pick. Now the 49ers have to contend with tough, dynamic, fast wide outs in their division in four games, one-quarter of their entire schedule.

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