The 49ers bulked up their offensive line depth entering 2021, putting second-year pro Colton McKivitz squarely on the roster bubble.
If the San Francisco 49ers made one thing clear by their actions during the 2021 offseason, it was they weren’t satisfied with the play from their offensive line a year ago.
Highlighting the moves, of course, were the free-agent pickup of center Alex Mack and then a second-round NFL Draft pick being used on former Notre Dame guard Aaron Banks. But buried deeper in the draft was a fifth-round selection on Western Michigan lineman Jaylon Moore.
Not necessarily good news for the Niners’ Round 5 selection from 2020, offensive lineman Colton McKivitz.
McKivitz, the 6-foot-6 and 306-pound converted offensive tackle out of West Virginia, didn’t have the luxury of a full offseason program his rookie year, which was abbreviated due to the pandemic. As a result, he was forced to make a position swap to guard while learning the complex and intricate nature of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense remotely, not getting much of an on-field grasp until training camp started.
Regardless, San Francisco wasn’t envisioning playing McKivitz much, rather working him slowly into the rotation as a back-end backup.
Yet injuries all along the O-line ultimately led to McKivitz appearing in 14 games, starting three of them and receiving a noticeable 301 total offensive snaps (28 percent), almost all of which were played at right guard.
The results? A mixed bag. Yet Moore’s add-on doesn’t necessarily bode well for McKivitz’s immediate future.
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Pro Football Focus wasn’t too thrilled with McKivitz’s efforts last season, giving him an overall 53.1 grade on the year with 52.5 and 49.9 run-blocking and pass-blocking grades, respectively.
It’s important to acknowledge, however, the lack of a proper offseason program. On top of that, bumping inside to guard from his traditional days as an outside lineman created problems, too.
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One of the measuring sticks for McKivitz will be seeing how well he’ll adjust in year two of his pro career, namely with him enjoying a regular regimen of organized team activities and preseason games, the latter category likely to feature the second-year pro quite often in a bid to crack the 49ers’ 53-man roster.
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McKivitz regularly rotated in the lineup with fellow backup guard Tom Compton last year, and at no point did it appear as if one was an upgrade over the other.
True, McKivitz has some dog to his game, which works in his favor. But his technique was never overly sound, and that carries over from his college days, according to one 2020 draft scouting report.
It’s possible McKivitz has already come close to his peak: a modest back-end player who’s capable of filling a roster void but never winds up finding a long-term fit.
The Niners’ addition of Moore suggests that as a possibility.
Chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster
Squarely on the bubble in year two of his career, McKivitz does have some advantages over a number of other players vying for a regular-season roster spot.
The chances increased a bit with third-year lineman Justin Skule suffering a torn ACL during OTAs. Combine that with swing-tackle candidate Shon Coleman not having played a regular-season snap since 2017, and one can see why McKivitz should be in the mix almost by default.
But McKivitz’s chances shouldn’t be considered any higher than 50-50, particularly with Moore in the mix as an up-and-coming lineman candidate and the likely position battle at right guard between Banks and the uber-versatile Daniel Brunskill, the loser of which will surely stay on the roster and eliminate one of the depth spots for a player like McKivitz.
And let’s not forget, Compton is still in the mix, too.
McKivitz will have to beat out Compton, Coleman and perhaps even Moore to stay in consideration, certainly at least two of those names along with the other third-string linemen on the offseason roster.
Not impossible, but not overly likely either.