The San Francisco 49ers have had a very, very odd road to their current group of offensive linemen. They went from having arguably the best line in the league with three first-round picks invested in it back in 2014 to arguably one of the worst over the past two seasons.
Losing Mike Iupati to free agency, Anthony Davis to retirement, Alex Boone to free agency and then ... Anthony Davis to retirement again certainly hurt the team big time. Couple that with consistent injuries at the center position and the fact that Joe Staley has been the only consistent player, and things have been looking a bit dire.
Last year, the 49ers signed Zane Beadles, a barely-adequate replacement for Boone at left guard, and went with the young Trent Brown at right tackle. Another highly-drafted rookie, Joshua Garnett, got some playing time along with Daniel Kilgore on the interior.
It was not a good line, lacking chemistry and consistency. There were more missed assignments and blown pockets than there were outright single guys getting beat one-on-one.
The 49ers were not active in the free agent market when it comes to the offensive line. Both Andrew Tiller and Andrew Gardner remain unsigned, and the 49ers looked to the frequent trade partner, the Baltimore Ravens, to improve the line. They traded for Jeremy Zuttah, sending a sixth-round pick for the veteran center.
Zuttah is past his prime, but he was a quality pickup with Kilgore’s injury history and the other issues on the interior, such as Beadles being pretty poor overall.
Most recently, the 49ers signed restricted free agent Garry Gilliam to a one-year offer sheet from the Seattle Seahawks. Gilliam is an offensive tackle who would give the 49ers a lot more versatility behind Brown and Staley. Zane Beadles is technically the swing tackle, while John Theus is a second option. Neither inspires confidence.
The Seahawks are not matching the Gilliam offer sheet on Gilliam, there is at least one less question at offensive tackle. With Garnett and Brown still young and raw, and three veterans at the other spots, the 49ers don’t have a lot of room for potential starters from the NFL Draft.
They need to develop Garnett and determine if Brown is the answer at right tackle, and they also need a stable swing tackle. The swing tackle can be found in the NFL Draft, as well as a potential replacement for Brown if the 49ers find themselves picking with a can’t-miss prospect on the board.
That said, the position definitely needs improvement all around. The 49ers may not have an immediate need for a highly-drafted or even a late-drafted rookie, but they will be in a position where they have a shot at some prospects who may be worth getting for the future.
Below, I’m going to list some of the best interior and outside prospects from the first few rounds and from the back few rounds. It’s not meant to be a definitive list though, so please post any guys you really like in the comments.
Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama: Robinson is a divisive player, with many believing he’s versatile enough to be a left tackle with a high ceiling in the NFL. Others think he’s a right tackle. But I think he’s great in the passing game and can handle speed rushers well enough to be worth the franchise first-round-pick price tag.
Ryan Ramcyzk, OT, Wisconsin: He’s as good as it gets in pass protection and he follows through his blocks more than most. He did have to have surgery to repair a torn labrum, however.
Garett Bolles, OT, Utah: After just one season in Utah, Bolles entered the draft. He was a great left tackle last year, and is great in run blocking. He does need to work on his passing game, and he’s going to be 25 years old not long after the NFL Draft ends, so I wouldn’t be comfortable with him in the first two rounds.
Dion Dawkins, OT/G, Temple: I personally believe Dawkins could play any position on the offensive line in the NFL. Some scouts think he’d be a great left tackle, and others feel like he can only work at guard. I like his complete skillset and would be happy to land someone like him in the second or third round.
Adam Bisnowaty, OT, Pittsburgh: He’s got a great wingspan, plays long and has good size overall. His grades are all over the place in the scouting community though, with many thinking he’s lacking in strength. I’m a fan of him as a swing tackle though, and he could be around in the fifth round.
Dan Sipper, OT, Arkansas: A for-sure right tackle in the NFL Skipper has the ability to open holes in the running game and doesn’t make big mistakes. He’s had some trouble with speed rushers but overall, he’s a very complete player for someone who could be around in the sixth round.
Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky: Possibly the most technically-sound player among offensive linemen in this year’s class. He’ll go in the first round due to his great push off the line and his quick feet in pass protection.
Dan Feeney, G, Indiana: He’s had some injuries, which hurts his value, but he’s got possibly the highest ceiling of any interior lineman in this draft. He’s a guard that gets plenty of push in the ground game.
Ethan Pocic, G/C, LSU: He can play any interior position, but is a natural leader and looks better at center from where I’m sitting. He’s a balanced player, with skill in the running and passing game. He could go in the second round, and would be a good pick at that point.
Isaac Asiata, G/C, Utah: A very good run blocker who can play any of the interior positions on the line. He didn’t get beaten frequently in the passing game, but is definitely better as a run blocker.
Jon Toth, C, Kentucky: A very dependable and smart player with a high floor in the NFL. He’s got enough size and athleticism to succeed in the NFL as well, and could be as high as a third-round pick to as late as a fifth-round pick.
Pat Elfein, C/G, Ohio State: He could go anywhere from the second to sixth round. Elfein is athletic, and he does everything well. He can handle any type of rush, but is undersized for the NFL. He needs to back on some more heft.
Cameron Tom, C, Southern Miss: Tom has been a starter since he was a freshman, but his ceiling is limited by his smaller frame. Still, he knows what he’s doing and is a very complete player, and could wind up being a dependable backup as a rookie undrafted free agent.