49ers depth chart: Predicting 2020 role for Colton McKivitz

Colton McKivitz #53 of the West Virginia Mountaineers (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Colton McKivitz #53 of the West Virginia Mountaineers (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The 49ers brought aboard West Virginia offensive tackle Colton McKivitz in the 2020 NFL Draft, but what’s the plan for him this season?

Grabbing an offensive lineman or two each year in the NFL Draft is always a wise move, and the San Francisco 49ers stuck to this plan in 2020 by grabbing former West Virginia blocker Colton McKivitz in Round 5.

The Niners previously traded away running back Matt Breida to the Miami Dolphins for the pick, turning the selection into a player who appeared in 50 games, starting 47 of them, for the Mountaineers during his collegiate tenure.

McKivitz was part of a massive campaign to overhaul San Francisco’s offensive line during the offseason, which included parting ways with former right guard Mike Person and swapping out now-retired left tackle Joe Staley for the perennial Pro Bowler, Trent Williams.

But McKivitz, who primarily played tackle in college, isn’t necessarily pegged for outside duties at the pro level. Yet that starter’s mentality could work in the 49ers’ favor sooner than later.

Colton McKivitz College Games Table
TacklesDef IntFumbles
*2015West VirginiaBig 12FROL
*2016West VirginiaBig 12FROL12020.00.0000000
*2017West VirginiaBig 12SOOL11010.00.0000000
2019West VirginiaBig 12SROL
CareerWest Virginia3030.00.0000000

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 7/16/2020.

The 2019 first-team All-Big 12 selection looks to be a vital depth piece early in his pro career. But is there a chance the Niners have discovered a potential long-term starter in the coming seasons?

Niner Noise’s annual “Who Is?” series looks at the immediate projections for McKivitz as well as what his future could hold beyond the upcoming season.

Why Colton McKivitz improves with 49ers in 2020

As Niner Noise’s Jeremy Wohlfart pointed out shortly after the draft, McKivitz’s initial success at the pro level likely comes at guard, not at tackle where he spent the majority of his collegiate career.

The 6-foot-6, 301-pound lineman has good movement for a player his size, and he’s much more polished in run blocking. This should serve well for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which is run-first oriented anyway. And as far as his speed goes, the 5.35 40-yard time shown at the NFL Combine is good enough to suggest he can get to next-level blocking areas with relative ease.

Putting more experienced blockers on either side of him should boost McKivitz’s initial stock value, as he’s not quite adept at blocking in space.

Why Colton McKivitz regresses with 49ers in 2020

While there’s a good amount to like about McKivitz’s game, there are more than a few negative traits to be worried about.

Pass protection isn’t exactly his strong suit, and on more than one occasion in this 2019 game versus NC State, McKivitz had trouble recognizing blitzes and frequently allowed pass-rushers to get behind him:

This is something potentially helped by a move inside at the NFL level, but his relative inability to move laterally could prevent him from being totally useful on the frequent bootlegs and pulls Shanahan’s system requires.

That’ll be an interesting facet to watch during training camp.

Chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster in 2020, future role

Even though he’s a fifth-round draft choice, McKivitz certainly isn’t guaranteed to earn a roster spot right away.

Despite some depth questions along the Niners O-line, it’s still a stacked unit as far as bodies go. San Francisco can already count on interior backups like Tom Compton or Daniel Brunskill, depending on who wins that bout for right guard, as well as other reserves like Ross Reynolds, Ben Garland and Ray Smith, among others.

Garland’s spot is likely safe, but McKivitz will have to outperform at least two of the other names to have a serious shot. There’s a good chance he’ll do so, but for now, it’s reasonable to put McKivitz on just the stronger side of the roster bubble.

McKivitz isn’t the best athlete, but many of the negatives he showed in college are coachable, and it’s not out of the question to suggest he could develop into a technically sound interior lineman who is capable of playing tackle in limited situations.

As far as his long-term future is concerned, the 49ers would certainly be open to letting McKivitz compete for a right guard spot as early as 2020, potentially pegging him as a starting candidate to possibly replace the veteran, Laken Tomlinson, at left guard at some point down the road.

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McKivitz has a long way to go before reaching that consideration, however, so it’ll be interesting to watch just how much he has to offer right away when the 49ers kick off training camp later this summer.