No. 1: Offensive Guard Joshua Garnett
No second-year player on San Francisco’s roster has more to prove in 2017 than last year’s first-round pick, offensive guard Joshua Garnett.
Garnett is still learning the aspects of a zone-blocking scheme. And while his run-blocking efforts are what earned him the Outland Trophy — awarded to the best collegiate interior lineman — in 2016, Garnett’s Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade last year was a paltry 42.4.
Paired with a 40.4 pass-blocking grade, it’s safe to say Garnett’s rookie season was a disappointment.
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“I thought it was typical,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said, via Joe Fann of 49ers.com, in his evaluation of Garnett’s rookie year. “It’s a different world between college and the NFL on the line of scrimmage. It’s night and day. There’s an adjustment period, no matter how good you are.”
To spark Garnett, the 49ers brought in free-agent linemen Brandon Fusco, Tim Barnes and Garry Gilliam. The Niners also added interior lineman Jeremy Zuttah, a 2016 Pro Bowler, via a trade.
San Francisco likely won’t turn its back on Garnett in 2017. It’s still far too early to write him off altogether, but Garnett will need to show a lot more this season to prove he’s a long-term fixture for an offensive line needing massive changes over the next few years.
Hopefully Garnett winds up being a part of the solution.