49ers Pick No. 187: Tackle/Guard Nick Zakelj, Fordham
Another versatile prospect who can’t play center? This pick is a bit redundant, but I actually like this because Nick Zakelj could have been chosen very early on Day 3 or even snuck into the end of the third round with few complaints, and the 49ers need extra depth on the offensive line.
While I would say Spencer Burford is more of a guard who can play tackle, Zakelj is more of the opposite in that he’s a tackle who can play guard. Standing at 6-foot-6 and 316 pounds, he has the size needed more than Burford to play at left tackle and be an understudy to Trent Williams.
Zakelj is one of those home-run swings from a small school I love in a Day 3 prospect. Zakelj never took on much in the way of elite opposition at Fordham, but his game film against Nebraska showed he could hold his own against Division I opponents.
On top of that, Zakelj is powerful. But where he needs to improve, if he does stay at tackle, is to develop more lateral ability and to set his weight properly when engaging defenders so he isn’t knocked off balance. While from a physical standpoint, Zakelj is better than Burford to be a tackle, the latter has him beat in this regard.
A lot of the deficiencies in his game would be mitigated by a move to guard, so there is that option for him if he can’t be a tackle at the pro level. Blocking depth is absolutely key to winning a Super Bowl.
I’ll be interested to see how his technique develops under Williams. If Zakelj corrects the deficiencies in his technique, then this could be a seriously good steal and a starter at left tackle, but even if he doesn’t, he can still project to be a solid guard or a swing tackle, which is perfectly fine for a pick in the sixth round.