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Wednesday Mock Draft: 49ers address the offensive line

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A player who would likely redshirt during his first season.

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San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl - USC v Iowa Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

We’ll do weekly mock drafts to start the day on Wednesday’s from here on out now that the San Francisco 49ers season is officially over. I’ll try and use different voices throughout the process, so we aren’t getting the same thought process over the next couple of months. I was going to use a CBS mock, but they had the Niners taking a linebacker. That’s a position that’s on the bottom of the totem pole.

Let’s go with PFF’s post-Super Bowl mock draft, where the 49ers address the offensive line, but tackle and not guard:

31. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS — OT AUSTIN JACKSON, USC

Kyle Shanahan’s system relies on having athletic offensive linemen capable of executing a diverse skillset, and Jackson certainly qualifies as such. There’s no telling how much longer 35-year-old left tackle Joe Staley will be at the top of his game, so Jackson can start inside at guard in the meantime.

I’m not a big fan drafting a player who won’t play in Year 1. Also, the 49ers just invested in an offensive tackle in 2018 by taking right tackle Mike McGlinchey. Shanahan’s system does rely on athletic linemen that can execute in space and pass protect. You know who did that at a high level? Daniel Brunskill and Ben Garland. Both of those players were undrafted free agents. Rookie offensive linemen generally struggle as they are not used to going up against the caliber of athletes the NFL produces along the defensive line. So, let’s say San Fransico drafts, Jackson. He won’t play in Year 1 and is probably going to struggle Year 2 since Jackson’s only live reps will come in practice.

The moral of the story is draft players that can score touchdowns or stop your opponent from scoring touchdowns in the first round, especially in an offense where the play-caller can make a fullback look like a dangerous threat. That’s not diminishing the value of an offensive lineman, but for as much talk about “running backs don’t matter,” we see over and over. The Chiefs starting left guard was drafted in the sixth round. Their best linemen, Mitchell Schwartz, was a second-rounder, but the Browns drafted him. Schwartz signed a one-year extension before the season for $11 million. It’s more about scheme fit for linemen. For every Quenton Nelson—who the Colts drafted over Minkah Fitzpatrick, Derwin James, and Jaire Alexander and now can’t stop the pass—there are ten Kolton Millers of the world.

Are you in on taking a tackle in the first round?