Every year, Football Outsiders puts together a list of the NFL’s best and brightest young players who have barely played. Instead of focusing on some of the more prominent up and coming talent in the league that we’re all aware of, this list focuses on the unheralded players that many fans are unaware of, but still displayed success early in their careers. Previous players Football Outsiders have included on these prospect lists are Geno Atkins, Grady Jarrett, Chris Godwin, Tyreek Hill, and Jamaal Charles. Last year, this list included Ravens tight end Mark Andrews as well as Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson.
San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill found himself No. 10 among 25 prospects, which brought a smile to my face:
10 Daniel Brunskill, OL, SF; Age: 26
Undrafted free agent, 2017; Career snaps: 476
Mike Person was the 49ers’ starting right guard last year, but it was Brunskill who showed time and time again that he belonged on the field. Working at both tackle and guard, Brunskill blew just two blocks that led to sacks—one against Aaron Donald—and showcased some pass-blocking steadiness on a team that needed a lot of it over the course of the season due to various injuries. Brunskill’s time at San Diego State showed a player with enough athleticism to fit a zone scheme: he’s a converted tight end that earned a second-team All-Mountain West selection after switching positions right before his senior year though he did play offensive line in high school. The knock on him coming out was a lack of functional strength, which is why he went undrafted. After two years in Atlanta—originally under Kyle Shanahan—Brunskill signed with the 49ers last offseason and picked up seven starts. Person retired this offseason but the 49ers didn’t draft a lineman until the fifth round and only Ben Garland remains as an interior challenger who played last year. That should put the 26-year-old Brunskill in position to become a starter for the first time, and what we saw last year indicates he can handle that well.
The decision at right guard seems pretty simple. Think of what caused the 49ers offensive line issues last season? Different stunts and games up the middle from the defense that would lead to either sacks or turnovers. Brunskill showcased the awareness as a first-time starter, and that tells me he’ll only improve with more reps.
We know Kyle Shanahan and Mike McDaniel can create a successful running scheme, they just need five healthy, capable, athletic bodies. Brunskill qualifies. He’s not going to wow you strength, and it’s not always going to look pretty. This isn’t a beauty pageant, and if the goal is to keep Jimmy standing upright, Brunskill should start. It’s good to see Brunskill appreciated after what he was asked to do in 2019.