SF 49ers: 5 NFL Draft prospects who can fix offensive line in 2021
By Peter Panacy
The SF 49ers are likely going to need some offensive line help in the 2021 NFL Draft again, meaning these five prospects should be on the team’s radar.
A quarter of the way through the 2020 regular season, the SF 49ers offensive line is quickly emerging as the team’s No. 1 liability.
Amid a 2-2 start, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s blockers haven’t come anywhere close to the kind of effect they had a year ago en route to Super Bowl LIV. True, this unit has undergone a number of changes and isn’t quite at 100 percent. The Niners saw veteran left tackle Joe Staley retire last offseason, then filled his shoes with perennial Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams. Right guard Mike Person was let go with the hopes uber-backup Daniel Brunskill could fill the void. And Ben Garland is still starting at center in place of the still-injured starter, Weston Richburg.
While there have been decent individual efforts along the O-line, the net results have been less than satisfactory. Football Outsiders currently has San Francisco’s O-line ranked 21st in pass protection and next to last in run support.
For Shanahan’s high-octane offense to work, those figures must be better.
Things figure to get trickier in 2021. Williams is a pending free agent, and his current deal with the SF 49ers prevents the team from using a franchise tag on him. It also might be tough for the Niners to re-sign him anyway, given their current cap situation and the projected salary cap next year expected to drop as low as $175 million.
San Francisco also has only six picks, currently, after dishing out a third-round selection for Williams last offseason, although there’s a likelihood of one compensatory pick being added.
Fortunately, the 2021 NFL Draft is expected to be awfully deep with quality offensive linemen, meaning Shanahan and general manager John Lynch should at least have eyes on these five potential draft prospects for next year.