John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have been busy overhauling the San Francisco 49ers roster the past year and a half, and this year saw big changes on the offensive line. Left tackle Joe Staley and left guard Laken Tomlinson return as starters, but the team signed center Weston Richburg, welcomes back guard Joshua Garnett to compete with newly signed guard Jonathan Cooper, and drafted right tackle Mike McGlinchey in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft shortly before trading Trent Brown to the New England Patriots. It’s been a busy time!
There is talent on the 49ers offensive line, but right now there are more questions than answers. Pro Football Focus recently ranked all 32 offensive lines, and their ranking and summary for the 49ers summed this up pretty well.
Of all the teams on the list, the 49ers have some of the best potential to outplay their current ranking. The reason being unfulfilled potential. Laken Tomlinson and Joshua Garnett are both former first-round picks who have yet to fulfill their potential. Tomlinson took huge strides forward though last season with a career high 70.7 overall grade while Garnett never got to build on a disappointing rookie campaign (39.6 overall grade) as he missed all last year with a knee injury. Both were highly touted by us here at PFF coming out of college as well. Then you add Weston Richburg – who earned an 86.5 grade back in 2015 – and Mike McGlinchey – PFF’s top-rated tackle in the 2018 draft.
The 49ers have potential, but it might take some time for this group to gel. Three of the five starters were not playing together last year, one is a rookie, and one spent last season on injured reserve. Can Joshua Garnett fit into the scheme, or was the signing of Jonathan Cooper to a deal with a sizable amount guaranteed a sign they are ready to move on? Can Weston Richburg avoid concussions and settle into Kyle Shanahan’s scheme? What to make of Mike McGlinchey in year 1?
The line has plenty to prove, but all things considered, I feel comfortable with the group. If the unit does not show enough cohesion, I still think the group is better than at least 5 or 6 lines out there. If they do gel together quickly, this could very well turn into a top ten offensive line. Injuries are always an x-factor, but other than that, I’m optimistic about where this group could be headed.