Editor’s note: Matt Maiocco will provide daily content previewing the NFL Draft, including position breakdowns, news stories, mock drafts and more. Here, he analyzes draft prospects at offensive line, and whether the 49ers should select one.
Alex Boone is out. Zane Beadles is in.
As the 2016 NFL draft approaches, those were the only changes to the 49ers’ offensive line through the first six weeks of the new league year. Once considered the strength of the offense, the line was a serious problem a year ago as the organization made the transition to a zone-blocking scheme.
The 49ers struggled at center, where Daniel Kilgore finally got healthy enough to make the final three starts of the season. Right guard was an issue with Jordan Devey starting nine games before Andrew Tiller stepped in and played well. And right tackle was problematic after Anthony Davis’ unexpected retirement forced Erik Pears to replace him.
The 49ers have recent draft picks, such as Marcus Martin, Trent Brown, Brandon Thomas and Ian Silberman, who are expected to make dramatic improvements with a full offseason of work. But are the answers already on the roster?
The 49ers are certainly not planning on the return of Davis, who has yet to file for reinstatement to take part in the team’s offseason program. Even if Davis appears in Santa Clara this week, it will have no impact on the team’s plan in the draft, general manager Trent Baalke said.
Who’s here: T Joe Staley, G Zane Beadles, C Daniel Kilgore, C/G Marcus Martin, G/T Erik Pears, G Andrew Tiller, T Trent Brown, G Jordan Devey, G Brandon Thomas, G Ian Silberman, T Colin Kelly
Draft needs: The 49ers might have hit on Brown, a seventh-round pick last year. It took him a while to feel comfortable in the scheme, but he demonstrated some impressive ability, to go along with his unique size, while starting the final two games of the season.
The 49ers are in the market to add their group of offensive linemen, and that could begin with the No. 7 overall pick.
“This is a good draft for offensive tackles,” Baalke said. “I think that there’s some depth throughout the draft at that position. There are some guys that you can consider Day 1 starter type guys.”
Good fits: Mississippi tackle Laremy Tunsil was considered a strong candidate to be the No. 1 pick in the draft before the Tennessee Titans traded that selection to the Los Angeles Rams. Still, Tunsil is expected to go within the top-five picks.
One NFL scout told CSNBayArea.com that he could see Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley also going within the top six picks, describing both Tunsil and Stanley as “Pro Bowl left tackles.”
Stanley could be the choice for the 49ers if he is on the board when the 49ers select. He could open his NFL career at right tackle. Stanley started 13 games at right tackle for Notre Dame in 2013 before moving to the left side when Zack Martin went to the NFL. Eventually, Stanley could be ticketed to replace left tackle Joe Staley.
The consensus third tackle is Jack Conklin (Michigan State), but he does not seem to be a great fit for the 49ers’ offensive scheme, which will ask the lineman to exhibit more athleticism.
If the 49ers go with a guard in the first three rounds, the top candidates are Cody Whitehair (Kansas State), Joshua Garnett (Stanford) and Christian Westerman (Arizona State).