Like the guard position, the 49ers made a point to address their need for a tackle in the 2010 NFL Draft, and did so early on. They held the thirteenth pick, but moved up two places to grab a rookie they liked. Did it pay off in 2010? I think it did to an extent, even though it's arguable that said pick was the worst player on the line this past year, but one has to wonder if the guy who would have been there in his place could have done any better. I'm guessing that he won't be able to. What we're looking at going forward is a position with a lot of youth and a lot of potential, so let's take our look back.
Staley started his 2010 out in a bad way when the 49ers went to Seattle in week one, but then again, all of the offensive linemen looked like crap in that game. Staley was one of them who picked it up after that lousy performance though, and was one of the better linemen up until, you guessed it, he got hurt again.
For the second year in a row, Staley got hurt nine games into the season and didn't come back. This time he wasn't placed on injured reserve though, and the 49ers boldly proclaimed that he was going to stay on the roster so as to make a triumphant return in the 2010 NFL Playoffs ... fat lotta good that was, yeah? It is worth noting that Staley was medically cleared to play in week seventeen, but the 49ers elected to go with someone else considering the fact that they didn't have the playoffs coming up. Best to just rest him, it seemed like.
I'd say it isn't a stretch to call his 2010 "good", if you're referring to the games he was in and not hurt. Staley is a weird tackle because he can outright dominate some guys, and ten get muscled around by some of the mid-tier/lower guys. Still, playing with a unit that looked fresh and hungry seemed to make him amp his game up and do well, if he has a good offseason, who knows what he can do?
After the jump, we look at the other tackle options on the 49ers roster, the 2011 free agents for the position and of course, the 2011 NFL draft ...
Drew K's favorite 49er, Anthony Davis, was taken in first round this past year. The 49ers moved up a couple spots to get him, and I personally think it was the right thing to do. I don't necessarily agree that he was the correct pick when it all comes down to it, just that moving up a couple of spots to be safe when you know the he is "your guy", is the right thing to do.
He certainly had an up and down season. Davis performed basically the way most rational folks thought he would in his rookie season: decently. In the build-up to the draft, Davis was billed as a guy who potentially had the highest ceiling of all the tackles in the draft, but would need time to reach that potential. Some think that he is going to, some believe it has to be on the left side, and others don't think anything will come of it at all.
Either way, he did just OK. He's got a 'C,' maybe a 'C-,' based on last season. There were games he got completely blown up and others where he straight up dominated pass rushers. He handled Claw Matthews and then some. On display was a serious show of potential, but it never did quite come together and that's something that will need to happen in 2011, lest Drew K has his way.
After coming in for injury relief at the left tackle position in 2009, Sims became liked by the fanbase again. He performed well and was honestly an improvement over the guy he replaced at that point. So when Joe Staley went down again this past season, people assumed Sims would do it again.
It didn't happen. Sims came in and played like a backup usually does in the league, as opposed to playing above-average in regards to backups in 2009. He got beaten, and the line as a whole seemed to suffer as a whole when Staley was not in. Coach Singletary openly contemplated starting Adam Snyder in place of Sims, though he always came just short of making the switch. Sims is now at an age where he is being overpowered by almost everybody and being outran by the rest. Linebackers are jogging past him en route to the quarterback, while guys like Mike Iupati can't seem to pick up any speed while next to him.
Boone is a very interesting prospect, in that he was supposed to be highly drafted, but something happened with booze, trying to pull a trailer with his own strength, jumping on cars and tasers, so he fell in the draft. When he was signed, there was mutterings of potential and not much else, but things really picked up when the beat writers started reporting on how Boone looked during the 2010 training camps. He spent the whole offseason getting himself into better shape and dedicating himself to the game.
It paid off and he earned himself a spot on the roster, though he remained active for most of the time. The coaches were impressed with him, but with two rookies on the line they just didn't have time to see what he's got. He did see some playing time in the regular season, in week seventeen against the Cardinals, when he came in at left tackle in the third quarter and made a key block on a Brian Westbrook touchdown run.
The tackle positions are set, but the 49ers will likely be in the market for a suitable backup at one of said positions. Davis and Staley are the starters, barring some sort of trade scenario. I mention a trade scenario because some people on here seem to think Staley has some value in that regard, but I personally do not see it happening. The only way that happens in my mind is if Davis absolutely needs to be a left tackle, and it's still up in the air as to whether or not Boone actually provides some sort of luxury. What's clear is that both Davis and Boone can play on the left and right sides. Still, it's not something I'm going to include in the poll because a trade is very unlikely at this point.
Boone is a wild card, and I honestly don't know what to make of him and won't until we see what he's looking like in training camp. Sims is probably gone, as a free agent I wouldn't be surprised if the 49ers pursued other options. Adam Snyder will be in discussions once again, but that's because he can play all five positions on the offensive line.
2011 Free Agency
Matt Light, New England Patriots: Light is getting up there in years, but he still might find a job starting somewhere. If not, he could come to San Francisco and immediately be a backup for Joe Staley, providing a veteran presence. He has a lot more left in the tank than Barry Sims, that's for sure.
Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens: It's unclear what the 49ers are looking for at this point. They valued versatility high in the past, and if they continue to do so, Yanda could be a solid option. He's like a better, younger Adam Snyder.
Sean Locklear, Seattle Seahawks: He's not great, but he is probably the definition of a "backup" tackle. Locklear is solid in pass protection and in a backup scenario, that's the most important thing. If the starter is injured, you just hope you can throw a body in there to get in the way of people trying to murder your quarterback.
2011 NFL Draft
Once again, I consider it unlikely that the team drafts an offensive lineman early. I also believe it's unlikely that they draft an offensive tackle at all. The only position I see them going for is center, and even then I feel as though it won't be until the later rounds. That being said, here's a link to Draft Tek's left tackle big board, and then their right tackle big board.