When one thinks about the 49ers’ best offensive lineman, they think Trent Williams. But left guard Laken Tomlinson has been excellent, too.
Well, if we’re being honest, Williams has been the NFL’s best offensive lineman this year. At least according to Pro Football Focus, who lists Williams as the No. 1 graded lineman this season with an almost impossible-to-reach 97.6 overall grade.
OK, fine. Williams has been and will continue to be fantastic. That’s known.
But what isn’t necessarily known is just how well the Niners lineman right next to him, left guard Laken Tomlinson, has been playing.
49ers Laken Tomlinson makes FanSided’s 2021 All-Underrated team
FanSided NFL insider Matt Lombardo polled numerous scouts, executives, coaches and players across the league to come up with this year’s “all underrated” team.
Not surprisingly (or surprisingly, depending how you view it), Tomlinson was one of the eight players mentioned, included with the following quote about his efforts in 2021:
“Tomlinson is playing as well as anyone in the league right now, and he’s barely talked about.”
Indeed, the PFF analytics back it up. Tomlinson’s 72.6 overall grade this season ranks 12th among all offensive guards who have played at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps this season, and to date, he’s only surrendered two quarterback hits and nine hurries without giving up a single sack.
Even that’s not something Williams can brag about.
There are typically only a handful of guards around the league who receive Williams-like attention anyway, and the No. 1 option is probably the Indianapolis Colts’ Quenton Nelson.
Tomlinson, although underrated, at least deserves to be in the conversation.
Laken Tomlinson’s play will force a tough 49ers decision
If there’s been another bonus for Tomlinson, it’s the fact he’s reliable. He’s made every start for the team, aside from way back in Week 1 of the 2017 season at the point when he was acquired via trade from the Detroit Lions, proving himself to be the model of consistency.
That’s important, especially considering how much attrition and shakeup the rest of San Francisco’s O-line has gone through in the years since.
Yet Tomlinson is also going to be a free agent this offseason, the final three years on his current contract being voided.
It’s possible, perhaps likely the 49ers will strongly consider extending Tomlinson, who’ll turn 30 years old during the offseason. A point made all the more noticeable given how little the Niners have gotten out of their second-round NFL Draft investment from this year, offensive guard Aaron Banks, who has yet to see a regular-season offensive snap.
But Tomlinson could easily command top dollar for an interior lineman on the open market, too, which clouds the waters a bit.
If San Francisco elects to re-sign him, though, it would know precisely what kind of consistency to expect.