The San Francisco 49ers probably won't have a good offensive line in 2016. It's not a secret, and that's not some kind of big revelation. The unit was miserable a season ago and instead of hitting the big red button and blowing it all up, the 49ers re-signed the absolute worst player on that line and plan to give him a chance to compete.
No, those of you who think Jordan Devey is just a camp body, that's not the case. We can't fool ourselves into believing that Devey, an agent of chaos of quarterback obliteration, will not be competing for a starting role in training camp and the preseason.
Fortunately, the 49ers will have some stability on the line, though it's not much. Joe Staley is still at left tackle and Daniel Kilgore, provided he is healthy, should give the 49ers an above average center. But that leaves both guard spots and the right tackle position up for grabs. The 49ers have players in mind for these positions, but nothing is solidified at this point.
Alex Boone departed in free agency, which definitely hurts the team. Boone didn't have his best year in pass protection last season or the year before it, but he's still one of the better guards in the league and the 49ers only managed to replace him with Zane Beadles. A long-time veteran of the league, Beadles has spent most of his career somewhere just above average but probably isn't even at that point anymore.
Still, smart money is on Beadles getting the starting job at the left guard spot, meaning it's just the right side of the line that requires the most attention from the 49ers in training camp. The right tackle spot is an interesting one because Anthony Davis insists that he's going to be returning from retirement, but it's unclear if that will actually happen. Davis isn't a player that the 49ers should be counting on by any stretch of the imagination, and he's already taken to Twitter to take shots at general manager Trent Baalke.
If Davis isn't the guy, then that leaves Erik Pears and Trent Brown to compete for that spot. At right guard, there's Devey, Brandon Thomas, Ian Silberman and Colin Kelly. I'm not confident that any of those players have what it takes to be a starter in the NFL.
Either way, let's take a look at some of the top offensive linemen in the upcoming NFL Draft.
- Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss)
- Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame)
- Jack Conklin (Michigan State)
- Taylor Decker (Ohio State)
- Jason Spriggs (Indiana)
- Germaine Ifedi (Texas A&M)
- Shon Coleman (Auburn)
- Le'Raven Clark (Texas Tech)
- Jerald Hawkins (LSU)
- John Theus (Georgia)
- Kyle Murphy (Stanford)
- Joe Haeg (North Dakota State)
- Cole Toner (Harvard)
- Fahn Cooper (Ole Miss)
- Willie Beavers (Western Michigan)
- Brandon Shell (South Carolina)
- Alex Lewis (Nebraska)
- Avery Young (Auburn)
- Cody Whitehair (Kansas State)
- Vadal Alexander (LSU)
- Joshua Garnett (Stanford)
- Christian Westerman (Arizona State)
- Landon Turner (North Carolina)
- Sebastian Tretola (Arkansas)
- Connor McGovern (Missouri)
- Spencer Drango (Baylor)
- Graham Glasgow (Michigan)
- Isaac Seumalo (Oregon State)
- Denver Kirkland (Arkansas)
- Joe Dahl (Washington State)
- Rees Odhlambo (Boise State)
- Joe Thuney (NC State)
- Parker Ehinger (Cincinnati)
The 49ers have a shot at one of the two top tackles in this draft and personally, I like Stanley better. I think he's a better fit, I think he has a higher ceiling and I think the 49ers would be in great shape if they took him. But I'm not sure the 49ers can afford to spend a high pick on a tackle, so we're left talking about the lower guys.
I really like Ifedi for an early second-round pick. I think spending the second pick on an offensive linemen could be a good idea, and guys like Ifedi, Spriggs and Decker are all interesting at that spot.
For guards, the market may be the best when you think about tackles that could and should make the transition. Other than that, there are no guaranteed first-round picks at the guard position. But there are good players, Garnett out of Stanford being my personal favorite. He can do it all and I think the 49ers, again, could do a whole lot worse than sending a second-round pick on the position.
I'm not sure about Whitehair. He seems to be the consensus top guard but I'm just not sold he has the physical tools to succeed in the NFL. He played tackle in college but he'll certainly play guard in the NFL and maybe he'll flourish, but I think he's undersized for the position.