The 49ers RT: Niners Nation looking into the Future

Quick Note: I wrote this article prior to this past weekend's heart breaking loss to the Titans.  The fact that we are 3-5 doesn't mean we should give up on the season, and focus on the offseason, I just wanted to get some names out there that we can track through out the remainder of the season.

Things can't get much worse (at RT) in Ninerland with Tony Pashos being out for the season.  While Pashos didn't get a lot of time to get comfortable in the offense, it leaves the 49ers with plenty of problems heading forward at the RT position.  We get to see just how good Adam Snyder can be in an everyday role from here on out, without someone breathing down his neck for playing time.  You can thank Joe Staley's injury for that, as Barry Sims is our starting LT.  I'd be much happier discussing the notion of Sims and Snyder rotating at RT than having both guys as our starting OTs.  The team may get a chance to see what Alex Boone has, but I think long term wise, Boone is depth at OL and not a future starter. 

With two drafts picks in the 2010 first round, the 49ers will likely have a chance to land one of the better OTs in the class.  On top of that, there are three potential free agents at RT that could interest the 49ers.  It depends on how much of a splash the 49ers want to make, and how well the players will perform through out the remainder of the season.  I'm going to take a look at those 3 free agent possibilities, and also run down the Top 6 OT prospects.  Also, if you haven't checked out Drew K's fanpost, do so, because he's got the entire draft class ranked.  While it may be too early for some to start thinking about next year's draft, it's never too early to track the talent of future 49ers.

I'll be following the three potential Free Agent RTs, as well as the top 6 OT prospects, but I encourage you to do the same.  I'm also curious to know if Niners Nation would rather see the team draft the "Right Tackle Of The Future" or sign him via free agency.  Again, we've got two first rounders, and I'd love to see an edge rusher come out of that round, but I'll never be unhappy when the team finally decides to spend a draft pick to bolster our LOLine.  Spending money on a RT is risky, and there's only one guy I'd really love to see the team sign - in other words, if they don't get him, I'd rather they go address it in the draft. 

After the jump Atlanta's Tyson Clabo, Tampa Bay's Jeremy Trueblood and Philadelphia's Winston Justice, followed by a rundown of some of the offensive tackle draft prospects... 

Football Outsiders Note:

Adjusted Line Yards (ALY): Statistic which attempts to, even to a small extent, separate the ability of a running back from the ability of the offensive line. Adjusted Line Yards begin as a measure of average rushing yards per play by running backs only, adjusted in the following way:

  • 0-4 yards: 100% strength
  • 5-10 yards: 50% strength
  • 11+ yards: not included
  • runs for a loss: 120% strength

Each play is also adjusted based on game situation as well as quality of opponents faced. Adjusted Line Yards can be listed as total or broken down by direction to attempt to isolate ability of specific linemen.  [The full explanation is here at FO]

The Free Agent Right Tackles

1.  Tyson Clabo, RT, Atlanta Falcons - I wasn't too vocal about it this past offseason, but I wanted Clabo to sign with the 49ers badly.  Clabo was a Restricted Free Agent, and I would've been more than happy to see the 49ers give up a draft pick to get a beast RT like Clabo.  In Atlanta's power run game offense, this guy is a mauling run blocker and started all 16 games in 2008.  Clabo took the job over 5 games into the 2007 season and has 34 career starts at RT after Week 8.  On to some rushing stats...

The Falcons run 24% of their run plays to the right side, in Clabo's direction (RT - 13%, RE - 11%).  Atlanta's Adjusted Line Yards on the runs to the RT are 4.4 (12th in the NFL); the runs to the RE are 5.66 (4th in the NFL).  On the left side of the line (which they run a total of 26%), the LT (15%) averages 3.52 (20th) while the LE (11%) averages 5.35 (7th).  In english, The Falcons have greater success running at the right side despite the similar frequency in plays run compared to the left side.  The success of runs to LE & RE are a testament to how well the Guards can pull, and how well the Tight Ends can block.

Atlanta also has an 82% power success (3rd) and just a 17% stuffed rate (6th); they have a low 19% 10+ yards plays.  This trend indicates that the Falcons rely on their Offensive Line to get the running game going, and don't depend on the RBs to break off bigs to help boster the rush attack.  For example, the 49ers have a 37% 10+ yards rate proving that our LOLine is banking on Gore to rip off the runs.  In conclusion, the Falcons have a dominant O-Line and the better part of that dominance is in Clabo's direction.  While Atlanta is just 17th in the NFL in rush yards per game, it's not because the big RT isn't doing his job. 

Bottom Line:  Tyson Clabo is a beast and would be a great RTOTF for this franchise.  Back a dump truck up to his house in the offseason and pay the guy.  Atlanta would be wise to extend this player before the 2010 FA period begins, let's hope they do not.  Age: 28, Height: 6'6, Weight: 314             

2.  Jeremy Trueblood, RT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -  What can I say about Trueblood, who seems to be an underrated RT on an otherwise terrible Buccaneers football team.  The Tampa Bay big fella started all 16 games in both 2007 and 2008, and 13 in his 2006 rookie season.  His total games started at RT after week 8 now sit at 52, and he's two years younger than Clabo.    Trueblood is schedule to be an Unrestricted Free Agent should the Bucs not sign him before the FA period begins in 2010.  Let's look at Trueblood's juicy stats...

Tampa runs 20% of their rush attempts to the right side in Trueblood's direction (10% RT, 10% RE).  The Bucs have the 4th ranked ALY at RT averaging 5.18, while averaging 1.74 at RE (ranked 30th).  To the left side of the line, Tampa Bay runs 19% (11% LT, 8% LE) and has the best ALY to LT at 5.78, but the 30th to LE at 2.69.  Despite having the 24th ranked rush offense in yards per game, Tampa has great success running at the tackles, but also lacks the help of a solid blocking Tight End (see: Kellen Winslow).

The Buccaneers do not boast a high power success rate, sitting 22nd in the league at 60%.  Their 20% rate of 10+ yard plays has them ranked 12th while a 24% stuffed rate is "good" for 28th in the league.  There aren't exact numbers to back up this claim, but the fact that Tampa Bay has the 31st ALY (3.03) in the Middle/Guard direction leads me to believe most of the stuffs aren't coming at the RT or LT's expense.  I'm concluding that the Buccaneers are solid at the tackle positions, but need improvement in the interior line (and Kellen Winslow stinks at blocking).  In other words, Jeremy Trueblood is worth looking at come FA time in 2010, and certainly worth tracking the rest of way in 2009.

Bottom Line:  If/when the Falcons re-up with Clabo, I would have no complaints about seeing Jeremy Trueblood join the 49ers O-Line in 2010.  He's durable, he's reliable, and he's huge.  I may actually endorse this signing more than Clabo based on contract value, but Clabo is such a mean, angry, mauling beast.  Age: 25, Height: 6'8, Weight: 320          

3. Winston Justice, RT, Philadelphia Eagles - Justice is on this list because of his smooth transition from LT to RT in 2009.  For the better part of 2007 and 2008, Justice was an ineffective LT on the verge of being labelled a bust.  The Eagles 2006 draft missed his entire rookie season and never got acclimated to the position as a pro.  Enter 2009, where Justice has emerged as a pleasant surpise starting all 7 games at RT for the Eagles.  By all appearances, Justice looks the part of an NFL-caliber starting RT.  The reflection of Justice in statistics...

Perhaps Justice has been pleasing the Eagles because they only run plays to RT at 7%, but the team runs to RE at 21%; that's 28% that the Eagles team is running in Justice's direction.  Comparatively, Philadelpha runs to the left side 28%, the difference being 14% at LT, and 14% at LE.  In terms of Adjusted Line Yards, the Eagles are fairly mediocre with a 3.61 average running towards RT (26th), and 3.7 at RE (18th).  Plays directed towars the LT are much more effective at 4.61, good for 5th in the league; Philly's LE rate is middle of the pack, averaging 4.08 (16th).  Winston Justice isn't the best lineman on the team, but he's certainly not terrible.

The Eagles have the 14th ranked rushing attack in the NFL averaging 115.4 yards per game, quite impressive considering the nagging injury problems that plague Brian Westbrook.  Even more impressive is Philadelphia's 83% power success (2nd in the league) combined with a 24% runs of 10+ yards  (7th in the league).  The Eagles also have the league's 2nd ranked stuffed percentage, which is pretty stellar 14%.  While Justice's numbers aren't quite as impressive, it definitely shows that the team's O-Line is successful as whole, thanks in part to Justice's play at RT.  If it came down to Justice being a targeted FA acquisition, it would mean both Clabo and Trueblood are off the market.

Bottom Line:  If does come down to Justice as a FA target, I think I'd rather have the team address RT in the draft.  Not that Justice's play isn't impressive, his 7 total starts at RT (and likely 16 by year's end) don't justify a big FA deal in my opinion.  Age: 24, Height: 6'6, Weight: 320 

Note: All RB % and ALY stats provided by FootballOutsiders.com; All games started data provided by PFR & CBS; All Team Rushing Date provided by TeamRankings.com; All stats are based on statistics prior to this past weekends games.

The Offensive Tackle Draft Prospects

Note:  All due respect to the potential underclassmen, but for the purposes in this list, I'm going with strictly seniors who will be in the 2010 draft undoubtedly.  My apologies to Bruce Campbell (Maryland), Bryan Bulaga (Iowa), and Anthony Davis (Rutgers).  Click on Scouting Report to get a deeper look at each prospect. 

1. Russell Okung, Oklahoma State, Scouting Report  - Projected Pick*: Top 5, Projected 40yd Dash*: 5.22, Height*: 6'5 Weight*: 305 

The Rundown:  Starting LT for the OSU Cowboys, and arguably the top OT prospect in the draft.  Some underclassmen could dethrone Okung, but it's likely that the first OL off the board in 2010 will be Okung.  The Cowboys have rushed for 20 TDs this season, and QB Zac Robinson has been sacked just 5 times in 228 pass attempts (through 9 games).  Texas fans may scream about Okung being a cheapshot artist, but check this video out and see him simply toss Freshman Alex Okafor to the turf (before he takes a crack at Keenan Robinson).  Doesn't every lineman need a nasty streak?  Yep.  The 49ers will likely have to trade up in the draft to get Okung, and Staley would have to move back to RT in such a scenario.  Since Okung has very few flaws in his game, the Niners would possibly have to acquire the Number 1 selection (and his talents are much deserving of that slot).         

2. Charles Brown, Southern California, Scouting Report - Projected Pick: Top 20, Projected 40yd Dash: 5.06, Height: 6'6 Weight: 296

The Rundown:  Another LT prospect, Brown is the starter for the USC Trojans.  I think the idea that Brown is a Top 20 pick is certainly debatable, but not far-fetched either.  He'll likely have to bulk up when he makes the transition to the pro game as he may be too "svelt" to be an NFL-caliber LT.  The Trojans QBs have been sacked 11 times in 225 pass attempts, while the team has rushed for 18 TDs (through 8 games).  I found this video on Youtube, that takes a glimpse into Brown's HS coach and the relationship they developed.  To say the very least, Brown seems like a professional and off the field issues seem highly unlikely.  I can definitely see the 49ers selecting Brown in the late teens, early twenties in the draft, and asking him to make the switch to RT at the next level. 

3. Trent Williams, Oklahoma, Scouting Report - Projected Pick: Round 1-2, Projected 40yd Dash: 5.27, Height: 6'5 Weight: 315

The Rundown:  While Williams is the starting LT for Oklahoma, it's very likely he'll be a RT for which ever NFL team drafts him.  The Sooner had an extremely productive 2008 season, but opted to remain in college for his senior season.  In 2008, Williams played RT, which will help him if he has to make the switch back in the pros.  The Sooners on the season have rushed for 12 TDs and allowed 7 sacks in 298 pass attempts (through 8 games).  One knock on Williams is that he doesn't have enough nastiness when run blocking, which hopefully can be addressed by pro coaches.  It's likely that the 49ers would have to reach for Williams in round 1, and not be high enough in Round 2 to have a shot at him (well assuming the 49ers don't fudge the mattress the rest of the way). 

4. Ciron Black, Lousiania State, Scouting Report - Projected Pick: Round 2, Projected 40yd Dash: 5.27, Height: 6'5, Weight: 320

The Rundown:  Black is the starting LT for the LSU Tigers, but is another prospect that will likely end up as RT in the NFL.  He also has the versatility to play guard, which will make him no worse than a second round draft choice in my opinion.  Black is a powerful run blocker, but struggles in pass protection at times (sounds like he'll fit right in).  The Tigers have allowed QB Jordan Jefferson to be sacked 23 times in 210 pass attempts, and have 12 Rush TDs in nine games thus far.  After passing up on Phil Loadholt last year, I'll find it hard to agree with the 49ers passing on Black if he's available when the Niners are on the clock in Round 2.  While I love the extra 2010 first rounder, it's time to address RT before the 2011 offseason.

5. Jason Fox, Miami, Scouting Report - Projected Pick: Round 2, Projected 40yd Dash: 5.10, Height: 6'6, Weight: 310

The Rundown:  Ok, so the trend stops from being college LT = NFL RT in this case, as Fox is the starting LT for the Hurricanes, and projects as an NFL LT.  In fact, Fox has been Miami's starting Left Tackle since his freshman season.  Miami's QB Jacory Harris has been sacked 25 times in 264 pass attempts through nine games, and the team has rushed for 15 TDs.  Since Fox is likely to be an NFL LT, it would be hard to see the 49ers take him.  Should Black be off the board in Round 2, but Fox is ripe for the picking, it would be wise at that point for the 49ers to entertain trade offers.  That is, unless the team was absolutely comfortable having Joe Staley move back to RT in order to shift a second round rookie in the starting LT role.

6. Selvish Capers, West Virginia, Scouting Report - Projected Pick: Round 3-4, Projected 40yd Dash: 4.91, Height: 6'6, Weight: 289

The Rundown: Capers is the Mountaineers starting RT, while some scouts envision him as a possible NFL LT.  By the time he's drafted and ready to suit up, it's likely he'll remain in his natural position.  However, should a team be able to land him in round 4, it's easily a possibility that an NFL team try and convert Capers to LT.  The West Virginia spread offense has seen QBs sacked 12 times in 251 pass attempts, while plundering opponents with 21 rushing TDs (9 games).  If the Niners haven't addressed offensive tackle by round 3, they'd jump on Capers if he's available, and not bank on him slipping to Round 4.  I don't think I can stress enough how important it will be for the team to get a RTOTF before the start of the 2010 season.  And for fun (since I couldn't find any other videos), Capers waves a pretty mean flag.   

* - projected data provided by WalterFootball.com (as of Oct. 24, 2009); NCAA team stats courtesy of Yahoo!; NOTE: The USC and Oklahoma games were not completed while this article was written.

That wraps up my first take on the 2010 offseason prospects at Right Tackle.  While I'd certainly be happy with Tyson Clabo or Jeremy Trueblood coming over via free agency, it could be wiser to have the team draft it's big grinder.  I'm wondering what Niners Nation thinks, should we sign a RT or draft a RT?  Certainly we need a RT for 2010, there's no denying that (unless your Kool-Aid has cyanide in it).

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