One of the biggest issues with the 2017 San Francisco 49ers offense was the performance of their offensive line. In fact, the unit has been in a downward spiral since the conclusion of the 2013 season, when dependable, if not unspectacular, center Jonathan Goodwin was technically the weakest link on the line. Since then, a revolving door of poor draft selections, poor free agent signings, and poor trades have left the unit as a whole scrambling just to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
In contrast to the previous regime(s), Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch seem to share a vision of how the offensive line should be built. They’ve actively sought out athletic lineman to populate the offensive line (outside of Laken Tomlinson, the lone plodder) that can adequately run the zone blocking scheme and get to their second-level blocks. Mike McGlinchey, despite being a mountain of a man, fits the bill by all accounts.
When the pick was made, most draftniks agreed that McGlinchey seems more comfortable on the right side - which led to some dissonance among fans around his projected role. At the time, the 49ers were situated with an aging LT in Joe Staley, and a premier pass-blocking RT (who couldn’t run block) in Trent Brown. Conventional wisdom would’ve said that McGlinchey was drafted as the heir apparent to Staley, but Brown was traded away shortly thereafter, and it became clear that the plan was to start McGlinchey at RT.
The friendship between Staley and McGlinchey has been, perhaps, one of the best stories of the (painfully long) offseason, but their connection doesn’t start there by any means. When Staley began at Central Michigan, his focus had been on playing TE. However, Coach Brian Kelly (along with offensive assistant Jeff Quinn & strength/conditioning coach Jake Flint) oversaw a transition that molded Staley into the premier tackle that has been a cornerstone of the 49ers franchise for over a decade. Some time later, that group of three coaches landed at Notre Dame, where they transitioned another young TE, Mike McGlinchey, into a premier tackle, following the blueprints of their success with Staley.
Mike McGlinchey has not yet signed his rookie contract. The 2018 NFL minimum salary for players with 0 credited seasons is $480,000, which is the value of the “Futures Contract” that McGlinchey is currently participating under. Once he does sign, it will be a four year contract that allows him to negotiate an extension after his third accrued season. As a first round pick, he will be eligible for a 5th year option. Because he was a top-10 pick, that option will be the average of the 10 highest paid players at the position. He will not be eligible for Proven Performance Escalators.
What to expect in 2018
Expectations for McGlinchey should be realistic in year 1 - it’s not often that rookie offensive linemen adapt to the NFL immediately. The primary knock on McGlinchey through the draft process was a tendency to have trouble with more powerful defensive linemen, and they only get stronger in the pros. Hopefully, an offseason with an NFL training staff will help him develop more strength, especially his core.
However, between his athleticism and experience with zone blocking from Brian Kelly’s scheme, there should be little doubt that he’ll be able to do what’s expected of him on a regular basis. Because it’s unlikely that he’ll be forced to win the one-on-one battles that a power scheme requires, his ability to win with speed should help open up the right side running game, especially on outside zone calls.
One last consideration is the quality of guard next to him. The LG position is virtually certain to be locked up by Laken Tomlinson, so the winner of the RG battle will likely either be Jonathan Cooper or Joshua Garnett - neither of whom has proven to be particularly effective throughout their respective careers. If the RG underperforms, which is a very distinct possibility, expect it to hamper McGlinchey’s performance - I think it’s asking too much to expect a rookie lineman to cover for his neighbor’s play as well.
Odds of making the team
Assuming he’s focused on playing football, 100%.