When the 49ers selected Spencer Burford in the fourth round of April’s draft, they knew they were getting an athletic player with a strong work ethic and a desire to be great. I’m sure many in the front office envisioned a path where Burford had time to develop and eventually earn himself a spot starting somewhere on the offensive line in the years to come.
What I don’t think anyone envisioned, however, was that Burford would not only start from Day 1 but also be one of the most talented rookies at his position from his entire draft class.
Of the rookies who have played at least 50 percent of snaps on the offensive line this season, Burford is the only one who has yet to allow a sack this season. Taking it a step further, Burford’s 11 pressures allowed is the fewest among rookie offensive linemen, with the next closest being Ravens center Tyler Linderbaum who has allowed 17.
Among the group of rookie offensive linemen getting considerable work with their respective teams from Day 1, Burford has separated himself at the top of the group with stellar play that has given the 49ers an immediate return on investment for the day three pick they invested in him just a few short months ago.
Burford’s consistency in pass protection has been on display over the course of this season as well, as he has only allowed more than one pressure two times in 11 games while never allowing more than three in a given game.
We have seen Jimmy Garoppolo play some of the best football of his career this season, and a major part of that has been the boost in pass protection on the interior offensive line, a huge part of which can be attributed to the contributions made by Burford in his first NFL season.
It’s early, but the 49ers appear to have found an answer at the right guard spot for the foreseeable future. While Burford has been fantastic in that role, he also played tackle in college and could see himself kicking out to the right tackle spot depending on what the 49ers decide to do in regards to Mike McGlinchey’s future.
At the very least, the 49ers know they have a surefire starter on their offensive line for years to come. Now, the main question soon becomes where can that immense skill Burford possesses ultimately be put the best use to maximize his off-the-charts athletic ability.