We all know QB is the most important position in sports. Every offseason we hear of a QB buying his Offensive line TVs, or giving them plane tickets on Alaska airline (you get those for free Wilson, do better). Offensive line is a QBs best friend, the big guys up front make the offense go. Just ask Marcus Mariota or Dak Prescott. They make the run game go, and protect the QB from taking hits.
The Offensive line is one of the position groups that Shanahan and Lynch didn’t do a lot in the offseason to address. This was most likely due to a weak draft for the offensive line and their unwillingness to spend on big free agents. The duo obviously believes that what was in house in the 2016 season will do enough for the 2017 season to make the offense go.
On March 15th the 49ers traded a sixth round pick for Jeremy Zuttah and a 6th round pick. Zuttah was a pro bowler at center for the Ravens in 2016. On April 17th the 49ers signed Gary Gilliam to a one-year, $2.2 million offer sheet. The following day, the Seahawks declined to match the offer, officially making Gilliam a 49er. These where the major additions to the offensive line. The team also brought in four undrafted free agents in for camp and to possibly compete for a spot on the roster.
All of the players that got on the field in 2016 are still on the roster, with exception of Marcus Martin. He was one of the first cuts when John Lynch took over control of the roster, and for good reason. Martin never lived up to his 3rd round pick and potential coming out of USC.
Joe Staley has been the anchor of the offensive line for the 49ers since he was drafted in 2007, and I don’t see that changing. Staley still has a lot left in the tank and will protect Hoyer’s, or whoever wins the QB job, blind side. Trent Brown played at right tackle in 2016 and I see him winning that job in 2017. Brown was great in 2016 in pass protection but struggles in the run game. His size sometimes makes it difficult for him at times and he gets pushed around on run plays from time to time. He can fix this with some good coaching in 2017.
Zane Beadles took a majority of the snaps at left guard in 2016. I don’t envision this changing. He was solid in 2016 in both pass protection and the run game. He’s not the future of the positon but he will have a successful season at left guard. He also has versatility and can back up every positon on the offensive line. Beadles ook snaps at center, both guard spots, and left tackle in 2016. Right guard was manned by 2016 1st round pick Joshua Garnet. He had an up and down season, with success in the run game, but struggled in pass protection. He made strides late in the season and I see him winning the job at right guard.
Daniel Kilgore when healthy in 2016 was the starting center, and he played very well when he was on the field. The 49ers did make a trade for a pro bowl center in Zuttah. I see Zuttah winning this job in 2017 and Kilgore being his backup.
Joe Theus and Gary Gilliam will be competing for the swing tackle roll. Swing tackle comes in as a tight end for jumbo packages in goal line or short yardage situations. The team could potentially keep both as Shanahan likes to keep eight offensive lineman on the roster, Kilgore could be the direct backup at center and guard with Theus and Gilliam being the 7th and 8th Offensive lineman on the roster.
The 49ers have some aging talent on the offensive line, and will look to get younger in the future. Going into the 2017 season the team has solid options at every position and the unit could potentially turn into a strength for Kyle Shanahan in his first season as the 49ers Head Coach.