NFL: Super Bowl LVIII-San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs
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The 49ers are meeting with several of the top offensive tackles in this upcoming class.

The San Francisco 49ers are back in the first round after two straight drafts with a selection amongst the Top 32, which means they’ll get a chance to select one of the top players in the 2024 NFL Draft in April.

With what appears to be a talented draft, especially within the first round, where could the 49ers go?

Well, the 49ers have question marks along the offensive line, specifically with their right side, as the group underwhelmed in 2023 outside of left tackle Trent Williams.

With that said, alongside an extremely deep offensive tackle class, it’s no surprise that the 49ers are showing interest in the position group, as they scheduled formal sit-down interviews with several first-round-projected tackles at the NFL Combine this past week.

Among the formal interviews were Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton, Georgia’s Amarius Mims, BYU’s Kingsley Suiamata, Arizona’s Jordan Morgan, Duke’s Graham Barton, and Houston’s Patrick Paul. Additionally, the 49ers met with Alabama’s J.C. Latham.

Outside of Paul, each one of those names is projected to go near or inside of the first round, which is intriguing because the 49ers should look for an upgrade or at least provide competition at their right tackle spot, currently manned by Colton McKivitz.

Elsewhere, the 49ers didn’t meet with many projected second and third-round tackles, with Paul being the exception, indicating their interest in the group wanes following the top players.

The process makes sense, as many of those midround tackles don’t fit the 49ers style, while there is a drop-off in talent at the position after a strong top-heavy group.

When evaluating their formal interviews at the combine, it’s clear that offensive line is a priority for San Francisco, especially early, as it was the position they requested the most formals at.

However, San Francisco is not the only team that is in need of a tackle, as there’s a chance that at least six offensive tackles go within the first 20 picks of the draft, with potentially as many as nine going in the first round overall.

That makes it likely that the 49ers will need to trade up to attain one of their top targets at tackle, and that’ll come at a cost.

From the outlook of the draft following the NFL Combine, it feels like the 49ers have to address tackle in the first round if they want to create competition for Colton McKivitz this offseason.

Not only does the organization feel wary about rookies earning extensive playing time, especially at offensive line, but the talent level for Year 1 starting-caliber players has a drop-off after the top-heavy group of linemen.

Additionally, a few of the top talents in this year’s draft, such as Barton and Morgan, may better project at guard, leaving fewer options at tackle for the 49ers to target.

Teams looking for OL

Looking just inside the last 12 picks of the first round (Nos. 20-32), the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, and Buffalo Bills could all target offensive linemen in this draft.

Pittsburgh is looking to add a right tackle to complement 2023 first-round pick Broderick Jones.

Miami is awaiting a decision on the potential retirement of left tackle Terron Armstead and may need to replace two starters in center Connor Williams and guard Robert Hunt, who are both free agents.

Dallas is unlikely to retain left tackle Tyron Smith, leaving them in search of either a tackle or a guard, depending on whether they kick out Tyler Smith from left guard to left tackle.

Green Bay could look for a David Bakhtiari replacement at left tackle, as there’s a possibility that they move off him in a salary move ahead of the league year.

Arizona has holes along their interior offensive line that could be a priority to fill.

And, the Buffalo Bills, could look to get younger across the board with their group.

That’s just the teams sitting with picks in the 20s. There are several offensive line-needy teams within the first 19 picks, thinning the herd for when the 49ers are scheduled to pick at No. 31.

Hence, there may need to be some movement should they look to acquire one of the top tackles in this year’s class.

The plan

If the 49ers do indeed draft a tackle in the first round, they’ll need to be able to contribute in Year 1 with the team’s championship window rapidly diminishing as players get older.

That could change their board to address potentially drafting a more pro-ready tackle, rather than fishing for upside, to best provide themselves an opportunity at a Super Bowl in 2024.

However, as I mentioned, the buzz around the combine feels like San Francisco would need to move ahead of several opponents in a trade to draft a first-round-caliber offensive tackle.

Should the 49ers stay at No. 31, there could be other offensive line options available, such as Morgan or Barton, who would be better suited to play guard, potentially giving San Francisco a plug-and-play starter on the interior at right guard.

But, if the first-round selection isn’t a tackle, I have a hard time seeing the 49ers finding an upgrade to McKivitz, given the lack of overall fits elsewhere in the class, as well as the team’s philosophy with rookies.

That could divert their attention to other positions in an attempt to draft the best player available on the board at that range.

Overall, tackle clearly seems like a priority, based on San Francisco’s visits, but it may be harder to attain one without a move up into the early 20s.

Now, the 49ers are equipped with 11 draft picks, including four in the Top 100, so a trade up is definitely feasible, but still provides complications, as there needs to be the right suitor and a strong enough package to move up.

Additionally, as a disclaimer, visits at the combine don’t tell everything. But, they do provide a representation of who San Francisco is sharing interest in during the draft process, which has value in its own.

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