49ers roster cuts: Tom Compton over Colton McKivitz was a mistake

Tom Compton #66 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Tom Compton #66 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Amid the many moves of 49ers roster cuts ahead of Week 1 was retaining veteran Tom Compton while waiving Colton McKivitz, which wasn’t the right move.

Few fans probably care too much about the San Francisco 49ers‘ decision to waive second-year offensive lineman Colton McKivitz while retaining the veteran, Tom Compton, as part of the massive wave of pre-Week 1 roster cuts at the conclusion of the 2021 preseason.

Granted, neither player should be viewed as an integral part of the Niners’ plans this season. But as last year’s injury-riddled offensive line can point out, it’s a thin line between high-caliber starters and the back end of the depth chart.

Yet that’s not the entire point why going with Compton over McKivitz was a mistake.

It’s far from a perfect evaluatory system. But consider what Pro Football Focus had to say about both Compton and McKivitz over three preseason games this year in terms of overall grades:

  • Colton McKivitz: 72.1
  • Tom Compton: 67.7

McKivitz edged out Compton in the run-blocking department (70.7 to 67.5). And while PFF graded Compton slightly better in pass protection, the difference is almost negligible: 62.7 to 62.5.

Analytical grades are one thing. The potential consequences might be another, however.

49ers should have stuck with Colton McKivitz over Tom Compton

McKivitz, San Francisco’s fifth-round pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, was going to be under contractual control for this upcoming season and the next two. And while his maturation and development haven’t exactly revealed him as a quality commodity, it’s important to at least acknowledge that development was hindered by the pandemic-altered 2020 campaign that left McKivitz without a rookie minicamp or organized team activities.

Vital steps for any first-year player, especially someone learning the intricate and complicated nature of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s blocking system.

True, the 49ers quickly signed McKivitz to their 2021 practice squad, which helps. But barring the unlikely protection, another team may easily grab McKivitz and sign him to its 53-man roster.

Granted, McKivitz isn’t exactly a sought-after commodity. But when determining why he should have made the 53-man cut over someone like Compton, arguably the easiest thing to point out is age and future impact down the road.

Read More: 49ers offensive line depth emerging as a problem

Compton, 32 years old, is signed through 2021 only anyway. Even as a backup, he’s not part of the Niners’ long-term future. And at this stage of his career, it’s fair to assume there’s not going to be any sort of drastic improvement from him.

That’s still an unknown with McKivitz. But when choosing between a player who isn’t likely to improve and one who possibly could, namely because he’s much younger, picking the latter almost always wins out.

Instead, San Francisco went with the former. Questionably so.

Maybe 49ers just liked what they saw out of Tom Compton more

Both Compton and McKivitz have seen time on the outside and were in the mix to be the team’s primary swing tackle, a job that eventually was handed to this year’s fifth-round rookie, Jaylon Moore.

If there’s one thing about Shanahan, he doesn’t care where a player was drafted or how much money he’s making. The best players will play, right?

So, in that thinking, perhaps Shanahan simply liked Compton’s efforts a bit more.

That said, neither Compton nor McKivitz particularly stood out for the right reasons in training camp, and both were relatively unspectacular during preseason outings, too. It’s possible Shanahan’s criteria remain elusive, and that can’t be ruled out. But even that leads back to the argument about going with an unremarkable veteran versus a still-developing low-end younger player.

The smarter bet, particularly for the long run, would have been McKivitz. Not Compton.

Next. 4 roster cuts 49ers will regret letting go. dark