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How the 49ers should address the interior offensive line in this NFL Draft

The 49ers should focus on Trey Lance’s protection early and often in this draft.

NFL: JAN 09 49ers at Rams Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With Trey Lance set to take the helm in 2022, there’s nothing more important for a rookie quarterback than having a stable and stout offensive line in front of him.

The one questionable area on the 49ers’ roster is still the interior of their offensive line. Veteran center Alex Mack is likely not returning this upcoming season, with general manager John Lynch non-committal on his future. Starting left guard Laken Tomlinson left in free agency, and starting right guard Dan Brunskill is back on a one-year deal.

San Francisco likely anticipated the changing of the guard (no pun intended) and drafted Aaron Banks in the second round last season — but there’s lots of uncertainty around his play behind the scenes. Jaylon Moore showed some promise last season, but he didn’t play any right guard last season — which is where he’ll be expected to compete later this summer.

With no long-term answer at center for the 49ers, I think this is the draft where they really strengthen the interior of the offensive line in the middle rounds.

Using PFF’s mock draft simulator, I went ahead and participated in a five-round draft. I did this mock draft under the impression that the 49ers will not move Deebo Samuel and will hold onto him past this weekend in hopes of retaining the superstar.

Trade: 49ers receive Picks 72 (3rd), and 109 (4th), and Seahawks receive Pick 61 (3rd)

Round 3, Pick 72: G Dylan Parham, Memphis

Round 3, Pick 93: C Dohnovan West, Arizona State

Round 5, Pick 172: G Jason Poe, Mercer

I also selected EDGE DeAngelo Malone, WR Danny Gray, and RB Pierre Strong Jr in this five-round mock draft with the other picks.

Ideally, it would’ve been perfect if one of the top safeties in this draft class had fallen to the 49ers at pick 61, but the likes of Jaquan Brisker, Jalen Pitre, Nick Cross, and Lewis Cine were all gone between Picks 20 and 40, and I expect that to be the case on the first two days of the draft.

Now, let’s get into why I think Parham, West, and Poe will be fantastic developmental pieces to the 49ers’ offensive line.

Parham is a bit undersized at 6-foot-3, 311 pounds, but his athleticism is off the charts. He has experience playing three different spots along the offensive line (left guard, right guard, and right tackle). In this draft, his 40-yard dash time was in the 97th percentile for offensive linemen. PFF believes that Parham has shades of Weston Richburg — a center that the 49ers signed in the 2018 season to a large contract.

In his three years at Arizona State, West played left guard, right guard, and center, so he is another prospect that has good versatility. He’s the youngest interior offensive line prospect in this class and hasn’t even turned 21 yet. Another fantastic athlete who’s only given up one sack in the last two seasons. He may not be ready to start at center out of the gate, but certainly, someone that can develop behind a J.C. Tretter (or Alex Mack if he returns).

My favorite offensive line prospect of the three players is Jason Poe. When Mercer played Alabama, I don’t think I’ve seen a human of his size move with his speed. In 24 pass-blocking snaps against Alabama, Poe only allowed one pressure. All of his measurables and combine workouts rank in the 88th percentile or above for offensive linemen. Poe isn’t a plug-and-play prospect, but it's hard to pass up on for a draft pick in the later rounds.