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49ers roster battles: Who will start at right guard?

Can a UDFA surprise?

NFL: AUG 10 Preseason - Cowboys at 49ers Photo by Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Right guard is arguably the only position on the San Francisco 49ers that is still up for grabs a couple of months away from training camp. Cornerback, nickel linebacker, and WR’s 3 and 4 are still undecided, but Mike Person started last season, and he was released earlier this offseason.

Tom Compton joined the media Wednesday afternoon to discuss what position he’d play. Compton said, “The plan is to compete for the right guard position. They’re obviously not just going to hand it to me. It’s definitely something that has to be earned. My mindset is that I’m competing for the right guard spot.” Compton also mentioned how his decision came down to re-signing with the Jets or signing with the 49ers. Bold move to choose San Francisco, Tom.

Compton, Daniel Brunskill, and Ross Reynolds are the three players set to compete to start at right guard. Reynolds was on the practice squad last year. He doesn’t get the same attention as a Kendrick Bourne—for obvious reasons—but Reynolds has been on Instagram showing his workouts, and they’ve been impressive.

Who wins?

You know my answer. The goalposts move for Brunskill, an undrafted free agent who played in his first extensive action when you talk about his season compared to other players around the league or even on the 49ers. Brunskill gave up nine total pressures on 242 snaps last year. Four of those came against Aaron freaking Donald. You know who else had a hard time with Donald? Quite literally, everyone. Yet, that’s the argument against Brunskill. I thought the offensive line played one of their best games in Week 17. NFL Gamepass is still free. Watch Brunskill pass protect in that game. He pitched a shutout. For some reason, that game gets ignored, but Brunskill’s first start against the best player in the NFL gets recognized instead.

Shanahan’s offense asks its guards to be aware, athletic, and sound. You don’t have to have the strength of Mike Iupati or be an All-Pro for the offense to excel. It’s as simple as knowing how to pick up blitzes and executing blocks in space. Brunskill, Compton, and Reynolds are all capable of this.

Compton’s PFF grade was 49.7. He played 217 passing snaps in 2019 and allowed 17 total pressures, including three sacks. I don’t want to speculate or assume that he was responsible for all of those. I watched a few of Compton’s starts, and functional strength was an issue, but overall, he seemed like a competent swing player. I’m not sure Compton is a player you want starting on a Super Bowl-caliber roster. That said, the players around Compton in 2020 are going to be so much better than those in New York that it’s safe to assume Compton will improve in San Francisco. That, and Shanahan doesn’t put the onus on his right guard.

Reynolds is the wild card. He’ll have to impress to start, but Reynolds is a player the team likes, and I wouldn’t rule out him making the team as a surprise. During his final year at Iowa, Reynolds allowed three sacks and five pressures. He was one of the best-run blockers in the country and just didn’t get overpowered in the running game. Reynolds doesn’t have the athleticism that wows you or those highlight blocks, but he gets the job done.

Who wins?