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The 49ers Guard Position: Where To Find An Upgrade?

Ninjames ran a real nice series on the 49ers roster moving forward and looking back. You can find the guard article right here. I think that it makes sense for me to delve further into it and give my point of view. So here goes....

The 49ers offensive line improved a great deal during the 2010 season. There were some games in which they regressed, but you have to expect that with two rookie starters. Accordingly, those are not the two positions upon which I am most worried. In fact, there is one position that worries me; the guard position. I am not prepared to have the 49ers go into 2011 with either Adam Snyder or Chilo Rachal starting at guard, I really think both are reserves at best.

So, what do the 49ers do? What are their options?

Luckily the 49ers have a nice amount of options when it comes to free agent guard. They are lucky because the draft doesn't present them with great options. In fact, the guard position is a big weakness in the 2011 draft. I think that we can all come to the conclusion that the in house options aren't really that great, so we have to look at exterior options.

Adam Snyder: He showed some promise a couple years ago, but has regressed a great deal during the 2010 season. He lacks great athleticism in terms of off the snap movement, and is caught off balance too much. Snyder could be a productive back up for the 49ers, so I wouldn't cut the cord at this point.

Chilo Rachal: Many of us were surprised that the 49ers "reached" for Rachal in the 2nd round a couple years ago, it was pretty much a pick that came out of nowhere. Rachal was pretty decent during his rookie campaign, and seemed to get more comfortable as the season moved on. However, it appears that Rachal lost all confidence in his ability to block last season. He got too high with his blocks and was caught flat footed on a regular basis. This is something that could be taught, and with the right coaching will be fixed. Listen, Rachal has a nice amount of talent and upside, but I do not believe that he should go into 2011 starting aside Anthony Davis, that has all the makings of a disaster. The 49ers would be well placed if they can attempt to trade Rachal for a mid-late round pick. I believe that there is a market for a player like Rachal with teams like Houston, Oakland, Philadelphia and Cleveland.

Draft Options

1st Round: None

2nd Round: Mike Pouncey, Rodney Hudson

3rd Round: Clint Boling, John Moffitt, Stefen Wisniewski

4th Round: Steve Schilling

Free Agent Options

Carl Nicks, Logan Mankins, Davin Joseph, Harvey Dahl, Ryan Kalil, Alan Faneca, Justin Blalock, Kyle Kosier

There are some nice options with both of these avenues. I really wouldn't mind the 49ers spending a 2nd round pick on Mike Pouncey or Rodney Hudson; I am not sure either will be available when the pick in the 2nd. John Moffitt in the 3rd and Steve Schilling in the 4th seems like nice options too. In fact, the 49ers have two 4th round picks in 2011 and Schilling would be nice slotted in the second of those two picks. However, the free agents market is much better at this point. I understand that most of the players listed above would cost well over 5MM per season. Especially, Mankins, Joseph and Kalil.

That said, it may be worth it for the 49ers to spend that money in order to stabilize the offensive line. If the 49ers can get a quality guard their offensive line would be set for the next 5 seasons. Another option would be the 49ers re-signing David Baas and moving Eric Heitmann back to guard. Heitmann is a heck of a player, and I think that it would be a smooth transition for him, this would also save the 49ers a nice amount of cash as well as an early draft pick. San Francisco has four players that are really solid along the offensive line. Mike Iupati is going to be a perennial all-pro performer, Jose Staley (if healthy) is really good, and Anthony Davis improved a great deal during his rookie campaign. David Baas did a real stout job replacing the injured Eric Heitmann, who should be back a full health this season. If the 49ers add a solid guard to the equation what was a weakness a couple years ago may become a strength this next year.