SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The pressure was on the San Francisco 49ers to find a quarterback this offseason to fill the team's greatest need.
They landed one Friday night.
Another might soon be on the way.
In the first major move of the Jim Harbaugh Era, the 49ers traded up in the second round to take Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick with the 36th overall pick in the NFL draft. They gave Denver their second-round (45th overall), fourth-round (108th) and fifth-round (141st) picks to move up.
General manager Trent Baalke and Harbaugh have spent most of the offseason doing their homework on quarterbacks. While there's a growing sentiment that Alex Smith will re-sign with San Francisco, there's nothing from his past play that suggests he could be the franchise's long-term solution.
Kaepernick was watching the draft unfold with family in Turlock, Calif., and will easily be a more popular pick because of his Northern California ties and strong throwing arm. Kaepernick was so excited he immediately started making the two-hour drive and was set to be formally introduced alongside Harbaugh later Friday night.
"That just makes it that much easier for my family, friends to come and see me," said Kaepernick, who was the sixth quarterback taken in the draft. "I know everybody in Reno was hoping I went to the 49ers as well. For me, it was the perfect pick."
The 49ers also traded back in the third round to take South Carolina defensive back Chris Culliver. The Jacksonville Jaguars received San Francisco's 76th overall pick in exchange for the 80th pick to take Culliver and a sixth-round selection (182nd overall).
The selection wasn't even the only move the 49ers made to secure a quarterback Friday.
Smith was at the team's facility working out and was scheduled to meet with Harbaugh, who has made it known he would like the team to reunite with the 2005 No. 1 overall pick. Smith is a free agent and his possible return could allow Kaepernick the time needed to develop into an NFL quarterback.
Kaepernick threw for 3,022 yards and 21 touchdowns for the Wolfpack last season but has been dinged for his elongated throwing motion, perhaps the biggest reason he slipped into the second round. He had a private workout with Harbaugh in Reno last month and believes that ended any doubts the team had about his throwing motion.
"I think it's a little bit more abbreviated, but at the same time, I haven't had a coach tell me they had a problem with it," Kaepernick said. "Coach Harbaugh was actually the first coach to tell me that it looked good. I think he was worried about whether I got the ball out quickly or not. And when he told me that, I was very excited about it."
Although he probably won't be the immediate starter, Kaepernick will be part of new regime charged with restoring the storied franchise to prominence.
The 49ers followed up a perfect preseason last year by losing their first five games, finished 6-10 in the league's worst division and coach Mike Singletary was fired with one game left. San Francisco's brass hired away Harbaugh from just down the road in Stanford, handing him the reins to a franchise that hasn't had a winning season or reached the playoffs since 2002.
And inconsistency at quarterback might be the biggest reason why.
The 49ers also showed signs they were headed toward a reunion with Smith when they bypassed quarterback prospects that could've made a more immediate impact. Instead, they took Missouri's Aldon Smith with the No. 7 overall pick in the first round to be a pass-rushing outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme.
Aldon Smith was formally introduced at the team's practice facility earlier Friday, meeting with coaches and the few players in the building. He was set to fly back to New York immediately, then Missouri before returning to the Bay Area.Comment on this story
Although draft picks are often surprised by the team that selects them, going to San Francisco was a bit of a stunner. He first met with Harbaugh and Baalke at Missouri's pro day, and even Smith believed the 49ers were attending to see Blaine Gabbert — another quarterback the franchise passed on in the draft.
Smith made enough of an impression because the 49ers flew him out for a private workout before the draft. He had dinner with Harbaugh and was even given a 50-question test that included everything from football history to field dimensions.
Apparently, he passed.
"It's been amazing," he said. "Five hours of sleep. Ever since my name got called I've been busy. I'm enjoying every bit of it."