COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 12 Virginia Tech at Duke
Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s an offensive lineman

We haven’t yet reached the portion of the NFL Combine where the offensive linemen have participated. That’ll be at the beginning of next week. Once that happens, we’ll have a better idea about who the San Francisco 49ers have met with.

It’s a foregone conclusion that the Niners will draft at least one offensive lineman in the NFL Draft. Trent Williams and Aaron Banks are locked in as starters. The team could save $4 million this season, 3.7 million in 2025, and $4.2 million in 2026 — when he turns 34 — by releasing Jake Brendel with a post-June 1 designation. The play of Brendel, whoever played right guard, and Colton McKivitz was up and down during the year.

I’d argue that each of those three players’ performance either leveled off or trended in the wrong direction down the stretch and in the playoffs.

But you can’t release a player without having another starter in mind or on the roster. Depending on how the board falls to them, a lineman in the first round is plausible. PFF went through and listed a “best case scenario” pick for each team, and the Niners ended up with an offensive tackle:


Goal: Find depth in the trenches

Ideal first pick: OL Graham Barton, Duke

The 49ers need to improve offensive and defensive line units that have become increasingly top-heavy.

Trent Williams is the gold standard at left tackle, but the rest of the unit leaves much to be desired, as the team finished 2023 tied for 23rd in pass-blocking grade. Duke’s Graham Barton gained experience at tackle and center during his college career and would likely be fine playing either guard spot.

Interior run defense has been a problem over the past couple of seasons in San Francisco. Javon Hargrave isn’t an elite run defender, and Javon Kinlaw has so far not panned out as hoped. Run-defending studs like T’Vondre Sweat or Kris Jenkins would be reasonable picks for the 49ers at No. 31.

Sweat weighed 366 pounds. Taking a player who would presumably give you no more than 30 snaps a game in the first round is not a recipe for success.

The 49ers would gravitate toward Barton for his lateral quickness. He has no issue getting to the second level or cutting off defenders on the backside. He’s also the type of player who doesn’t lose reps once he gets his hands on you.

You do worry about his sub-optimal length — we’ll have official measurements on the linemen this weekend — and if that’ll force Barton to move back inside. Barton started the past three seasons at left tackle but randomly played right guard at times. As a freshman, he was Duke’s starting center.

He has 39 career starts and played in a zone-based running scheme. He excelled against the best pass rushers he faced. And when he did make a mistake or get beaten on a rep, he didn’t make the same mistake twice in a game, which should be comforting for evaluators.

Read More

About the Author: Insidethe49

Insidethe49 Site Staff

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!