The San Francisco 49ers have arguably the best offensive line in the NFL, however there is little depth behind the starting five, leaving many to question how the 49ers will attack this issue. Whether in free-agency or this year’s upcoming NFL Draft, the 49ers will need to add a fountain of youth, as they shore up their offensive line. With the NFL scouting combine just one day away, I have identified three offensive lineman, the 49ers should target in this year’s draft.
1. Jonathan Cooper (UNC)- The last time the 49ers drafted a Tar-Heel in the first-round was Harris Barton in 1987 (No. 22 overall). GM Trent Baalke and company should consider Cooper if he is still miraculously still on the board at pick number 31. He is the second-highest rated guard in the draft, and the fact that G David DeCastro slipped to the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, makes the selection of Cooper a likely possibility. He is very athletic and has the rare ability to pull to the left and right. He is equally effective as both a run blocker and pass protector, showing great hands and feet to hit the second-level. Possesses great balance to help anchor a line and has enough strength to hold the point of attack.
2. Brian Schwenke (California)- Schwenke is my wild-card here as most NFL teams likely have Barrett Jones (Alabama) as the top rated center in this year’s draft. However, Schwenke has the quickness, awareness, and smarts to thrive in any offense. Although not overly powerful, Schwenke does the little things to make up for his lack of athletic ability, as he is fundamentally sound. He plays with a good pad level and will often win his battles due to leverage.
3. Lane Johnson (Oklahoma)- With tackles Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, and D.J. Fluker likely off the board, the 49ers should turn their attention to Lane Johnson. Baalke loves XII talent, and the fact that Johnson was responsible for protecting QB Landry Jones‘ blind side speaks volumes of him as a pass protector. A tackle with a mean streak, Johnson is not afraid to mix it up with defenders. He has a great combination of power and athleticism which will benefit him at the next level. The knock on Johnson is his height. Johnson is 6-7 which is good, but sometimes plays too high allowing himself to get out of position. If he does not possess the skill set to excel at tackle, look for a team to possibly move him to guard, much like current 49ers guard Alex Boone.
As the 49ers scouting department prepares for this week’s festivities, keep an eye out for these three prospects as they will definitely turn some heads, either during their drills, or position work.