The folks over at Pro Football Focus compiled their top tackles for 2021, and the 49ers’ own, Trent Williams, found himself up high on the list.
The San Francisco 49ers don’t shy away from paying top-level talent, and they made this abundantly clear earlier this offseason when they rewarded eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams a six-year, $138 million contract to stick around with the team for the long run.
Williams is one of the league’s elite. That’s why there was such a lofty bidding war for his services not long ago, namely coming down between the Niners and Kansas City Chiefs.
San Francisco won out, of course, ultimately making the soon-to-be 33-year-old Williams the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history.
Yet teams get what they pay for, and there’s little doubting Williams provides that kind of talent even at the latter stages of what could end up being a Hall of Fame-caliber career.
Pro Football Focus names 49ers’ Trent Williams No. 2 tackle entering 2021
So it shouldn’t come as big a shock Williams ended up on Pro Football Focus’ list of the 32 best offensive tackles heading into the 2021 season.
No. 2 overall, to be exact, ranking behind only the Green Bay Packers’ David Bakhtiari.
As far as PFF’s breakdown of Williams? Well, it was pretty lofty to say the least:
"After taking a one-year hiatus in 2019, Williams returned to the field for a new squad in 2020 and looked like the same elite player. He notched a 91.8 PFF grade in San Francisco last season, leading all offensive tackles. While his pass protection was strong, it was his performance in Kyle Shanahan’s wide zone rushing attack that really solidifies his spot here. Williams earned a career-high 91.8 run-blocking grade and laid down more big-time and positively graded blocks than any other tackle in a season during the PFF era (since 2006)."
The 49ers sent off a third- and a fifth-round NFL Draft pick to the Washington Football Team to acquire Williams just ahead of the 2020 season. Had Williams left via free agency, the Niners would have likely earned a compensatory third-round pick in return, making the loss and overall transaction a little more bearable.
But considering Williams will remain a vital bookend for San Francisco’s offensive line for the foreseeable future, and one of the best in the league for that matter, those two mid-round picks have to be considered a bargain at this point.
The 49ers invested heavily in their offensive line during the offseason, too, signing veteran center Alex Mack before drafting Notre Dame guard Aaron Banks and Western Michigan tackle Jaylon Moore in Rounds 2 and 5 of this year’s draft, respectively.
The hope is for players like Banks and Mack to pair with Williams to transform the Niners’ O-line into one of the league’s more formidable units this season, going from what was generally considered a liability last year into a positive strength.
Judging by his efforts in 2020, it doesn’t look as if Williams will be anywhere close to being considered a weakness.