Headed into the 2023 NFL draft, many analysts presumed the 49ers would be in the market for an offensive tackle. Mike McGlinchey moved on to Denver, and Trent Williams has at least two more years as a 49er. Blake Freeland was a popular offensive tackle in mock drafts. Dawand Jones of Ohio State was available.
Ultimately, the 49ers did not address the position with a draft pick. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan spoke after the third day of the draft and shed light on their thought process:
I guess the one thing you look at this, you guys did not take an offensive lineman. So, what does that tell us?
Kyle Shanahan: “There wasn’t one there that would fit. We would love to take an O-lineman, but it just, the draft didn’t work out that way.”
John Lynch: “Yeah, I think even in the first round, in a year that was very limited, especially at the tackle position, a lot of them went early. There was a huge run early that affected, it starts at the top and it’s a trickle-down or up, or whatever you call it, effect and that happened. So, we weren’t going to take one just to take one.”
Freeland felt like a fit for the 49ers based on his athletic profile and his run-blocking prowess. Clearly, the 49ers did not feel the same way about Freeland.
Their confidence in the position is based on Colton McKivitz, who is the presumed right tackle in 2023.
You said on Monday that you were open to trading Denver Broncos OT Mike McGlinchey last year, which suggests that you were fine with whatever you had last year as a starter, probably OL Colton McKivitz. So, is this a vote of confidence for Colton McKivitz as well?
JL: “Very much so. We believe in Colton. I’ll let Kyle talk a little bit about Colton as a player, but Colton, the Gold Helmet is a hard standard up there. We give it to very few people. Colton was one of those when he came out of West Virginia. I think when he got here, we didn’t necessarily see that all the time, because he was shy. It kind of, it took him a little while, but I think over time, as his confidence grew, you started to see all those traits and qualities, the spirit as we call it, really start to show. And then, Colton’s sneaky talented as well and we like him a lot as a player. Kyle, you can go ahead and talk about him.”
KS: “Yeah, I mean just getting an O-lineman to start in this league is really tough, especially how different playing in the league is than college, and the lack of preparation we get with how OTAs are this year, how much shorter training camp is, but you can win with Colton. He’s been here for a while. When he has played we have won games with him. He did a hell of a job last year, or two years ago getting into the playoffs when he had to start unexpectedly against the Rams in Week 17 I think. But I look at Colton very similar to how [C] Jake [Brendel] was last year. We felt very good about Jake, but you never know until they get out there a ton, and you look in the draft to add depth and you always want to if there’s someone’s there that falls in that you think can beat out your starter, that’s really a good pick, but it’s not easy to find a guy, a pick 99 or later that can beat out Colton McKivitz, just like you don’t just find anyone for Jake Brendel last year. So, when you have guys who’ve played and you practice with a lot, and you have an idea about them, I get how not everyone else knows about them as much, because they haven’t seen them, but I mean we were going to that draft hoping to find depth and hoping to find some competition, but to go into that draft and think you’re going to find someone to start over someone like Colton, or as good as Colton can be and has been, would be very unusual.”
For better or worse, McKivitz is entrenched as the starting right tackle. Shanahan and Lynch are confident, and hopefully, their confidence is rewarded.