Podcasts have never been my thing, but I remember listening to a 49ers-themed show last football season. The hosts were discussing the complete lack of a ground game for the 49ers, and then provided an interesting statistic: Carlos Hyde was averaging less than one yard before contact.
You read that right: Hyde was not making it back to the line of scrimmage before getting hit. And this was after the team finally rid themselves of the twin diseases known as Jordan Devey and Erik Pears.
At some point during this rebuilding period, the 49ers are going to need to draft a quarterback. Maybe that’s this year, but I’d suggest skipping a first-round selection of a signal caller and taking a hard look at right guard Dan Feeney from the University of Indiana.
Feeney is a technically sound interior lineman. Over the last three years and 1,239 pass block attempts, he only committed ten penalties, gave up two sacks, allowed three quarterback hits and 19 hurries. That means Feeney gave up a sack an average .002 percent of pass attempts. You know Brian Hoyer’s mother just read this fact and is now begging John Lynch to draft Feeney to protect her son. Nothing but the best for Mamma Hoyer’s baby boy!
Along with playing right guard, Feeney can play right tackle. He took some snaps during the 2016 Foster Farms Bowl. However, Pro Football Focus found tackle a weakness for Feeney and stated, he “experienced more struggles in pass protection when playing right tackle.” They went on to critique his balance issues at the position, noting he “falls down from time to time.”
Now, I have to admit I do not have the resources (read: a winning Powerball ticket) or time (read: I’m married, and we have a dog who loves going for walks) to crunch three years of college game film on Feeney’s performance. But, I can play general manager for all 32 NFL teams and answer this so-called weakness: Draft Feeney as a guard, hone his skills as a guard and play him as a guard.
Done! We’ve solved that problem. Please send your day’s wage via Pay Pal.
Feeney’s one of the better run blockers I’ve watched this offseason. It doesn’t matter if he’s pulling, trapping, blocking down or heading to the second level; he finds the weak target on the defender’s body and zeros in on it. Too often, linemen aim for the defender’s whole body and then slip off the point of attack or miss the block entirely. This strategy is poor technique, and the targeted defender makes the stop before the play has a chance to develop. Feeney sets an excellent lower base and has top-notch footwork. He sticks his with his block and drives opponents two to four yards off the ball.
Pro Football Focus listed Feeney’s mobility as a concern, but I disagree with the observation. Indiana called a lot of screen plays, calling for Feeney to slip his defender and get out into open space. Often, he’d be the lead block until the back got clipped from behind or just outran Feeney. There’s a point where you want the back to beat the lineman, especially if there’s a lot of green grass between him and the end zone. Additionally, Feeney had no issue moving laterally to help inside and then bounce out to pick up a missed assignment or help with a bad block.
During a 2015 game against Florida International University, Indiana ran a pure one-back power to the left. The left guard and center blocked down, while Feeney pulled through the 3-hole. The back took a delayed step to the right before moving left, giving Feeney time to come around the corner to meet the Mike-backer head on. It’s a simple play, but the perfect execution resulted in a five-yard gain.
At 6’4, 305 pounds, there isn’t a scout who can claim Feeney is undersized to play an interior position. Feeney isn’t a lineman who gets blown off the ball, and I don’t expect him to have difficulty picking up the multitude of NFL stunts from linebackers and safeties. In fact, I predict Feeney to thrive under a professional system, especially the new atmosphere in Santa Clara.
Players like Dan Feeney are how you start a rebuilding process, especially in a draft with quarterbacks who are not mind blowing players. If John Lynch is serious about trading down in the first round, Feeney is a player to land mid-round and a player to build around.