When 49ers general manager John Lynch wouldn’t say whether or not center Alex Mack would return for the 2022 regular season, we all knew what that meant. Lynch was asked how he felt about the Niners' offensive line as a whole and whether he felt like that group was ready to give Trey Lance the best shot at success:
“Yeah, I do feel good. And that’s something with nine picks, that’s an area where we could look to bolster. We’ve had a philosophy that you always want to be strong up front and you start with [T] Trent Williams out at left tackle. We drafted a couple young players last year that we’re very excited about. And they’re going to have to make the most of their opportunities, [OL] Aaron Banks and [OL] Jaylon Moore. We were very happy with both of them.
I think a lot of people probably crossed the signals because they weren’t playing their rookie year, that wasn’t the case. We just had guys in front of them that were very hard to beat out.
[New York Jets G] Laken [Tomlinson] obviously moved on. And so, there’s an open spot there and a lot of people will compete for it, but I think Banks has a great shot at that. And Jaylon’s a guy we’re really excited about, he’s worked his tail off this offseason.
[OL Daniel] Danny Brunskill remains here and Dan’s a hard guy to beat out, he’s going to push and he’s always going to do what’s necessary to hang on. And we’ve got some guys like [OL Jake] Brendel and Brunskill has versatility to go play center.
And then we’re really excited about having [T] Mike McGlinchey back as well. Mike’s a good player and a guy who’s meant a lot to us and our success around here and watching he and [DT Javon] Kinlaw out here kind of become partners in the rehab process has been a fun evolution to watch them get better. And he’s doing really well and we’re going to give him the necessary time to be fully healthy and I think he’ll be back to being a big part of who we are.”
Moore and Banks combined to play 134 snaps last season, with Moore playing all but three of those snaps.
You’ll always hear people preaching about how continuity is what makes the best offensive lines go. In Kyle Shanahan’s offense, that’s especially true. Generally speaking, the sum is greater than the parts. Now, Trent Williams is one heck of a part, but we’ve seen how the offense can struggle when the interior line has its breakdowns.
Tomlinson missed one game dating back to 2017. To call him reliable would be an understatement. It felt like the team dealt with multiple injuries along the trenches on both sides of the ball, and Tomlinson was the one person you knew would always start.
All that’s to say, Banks, assuming he replaces Tomlinson, has to live up to Tomlinson’s play on the field, but if he’s truly going to take Tomlinson’s spot, he has to be in the lineup weekly for essentially his entire rookie contract.
Let’s put two and two together and act as if Mack, who will turn 37 next year, is hanging his cleats up. How early the team uses a draft pick on a center/interior offensive lineman will tell us how they feel about Brunskill. If the first selection is on a lineman, the Niners are telling us they hope he starts. If the pick is closer to the 100s, then the likelihood of Brunskill starting at center feels high.
According to our draft tracker, the 49ers have met with the following interior offensive linemen:
- Chattanooga C Cole Strange
- Nebraska C Cam Jurgens — 49ers Director of Pro Personnel Ran Carthan attended Nebraska’s Pro Day
- Memphis OL Dylan Parham
A report from the weekend said that Jurgens wouldn’t make it past the Eagles' second-round pick, which is No. 51, ten selections before the Niners.
Strange has been mocked as high as No. 31 back in March but consistently falls in the third-round range in April. As for Parham, He’s all over the map. Some have him mocked to the Cowboys or 49ers in the second round or falling all the way to the fifth round.