Last year, Will Redmond was best known as former general manager Trent Baalke’s most confounding pick of the 2016 draft.
This season, Redmond hopes to be known as a capable slot cornerback.
And he thinks can do just that because he’s no longer thinking about his knee that was surgically repaired in 2015.
“It’s been two years; it’s time to move on,” Redmond said before finishing the thought with a smile: “What knee?”
In 2016, Redmond became the final member of what derisively became known as Team ACL: The seven players Baalke drafted since 2013 who were rehabilitating from major knee injuries when they were selected.
Those players haven’t panned out, but Baalke’s strategy was logical when the 49ers had a loaded roster and a surplus of draft picks, one of whom could be stashed on an injured list.
By 2016, however, the 49ers were a talent-starved team coming off a 5-11 season … yet Baalke still used the No. 68 overall pick on Redmond, who had torn his ACL six months earlier at Mississippi State.
Given the 49ers’ need for immediate help, Baalke was asked why he didn’t use the third-round pick on a healthy player and he answered by insisting Redmond would be ready for training camp.
That set the stage for a season in which Baalke seemed determined to get his pick on the field. Redmond was limited in training-camp practices, played 38 snaps in final two preseason games with a knee brace and opened the season on injured reserve because he wasn’t fully recovered.
In October, the 49ers designated Redmond as the lone player they could activated from IR. In November, however, they conceded he wasn’t ready and placed him on season-ending IR.
Asked if he felt pressure to get on the field last year, Redmond said he focused on what he could control: his rehab.
“I felt pressure just because I got drafted,” Redmond said. “My thing was I was going to do whatever I could to get back. That was all I could control … I don’t know what the thought was. I just came out and did what I had to do every day and they made decisions in the back office. It really wasn’t on me. It wasn’t my call. All I know I’m ready to play right now. I’m healthy and feeling good.”
Redmond was medically cleared well before the start of the offseason program and he’s eager to show why he was an early third-round pick, despite having an injury.
However, his medical situation isn’t all that’s changed. Baalke, who gave his draft picks long leashes, is gone and the 49ers’ new regime has no loyalty to the draftees they inherited. Redmond is competing with K’Waun Williams for the slot corner spot, but Williams has been taking the first-teams snaps in training camp.
Williams also has a strong connection with secondary coach Jeff Hafley, who recruited him to the University of Pittsburgh and was his position coach from 2014-15 with the Browns.
Given the altered landscape, does Redmond feel any more urgency to prove his worth?
“That’s always going to be there,” Redmond said. “Even if I was the No. 1 guy, you feel that. That’s the way I live my life every day: Go out and compete. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew I would have compete every day, whether I’m a (starter), (second-string) or (third-string).”
In light of his recent past, Redmond is particularly eager for the preseason opener Friday in Kansas City. It will mark his first game since he played in last year’s preseason finale with an injury that wasn’t fully healed.
“I felt like myself, but I had a knee brace on,” Redmond said. “I wasn’t 100 percent. I just came out and gave it my all. Whether I’m 100 percent, 70, 50, 30; I’m going to give it my all.”
Eric Branch is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: EBranch@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @Eric_Branch