49ers roster: These 3 rookies could start right away in 2022

Linebacker Drake Jackson #99 of the USC Trojans (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Linebacker Drake Jackson #99 of the USC Trojans (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /
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Spencer Burford, UTSA Roadrunners
UTSA offensive lineman Spencer Burford (OL04) Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

49ers rookie No. 2: Offensive guard Spencer Burford

San Francisco could potentially have a paradox with its offensive line this season, and a lot of it depends on whether or not veteran Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, who’ll turn 37 years old this year, elects to retire as is reportedly on the table.

Now, the 49ers did ink undrafted free-agent center Dohnovan West out of ASU, yet Kyle Shanahan has historically hesitated to start a rookie or even a second-year player at center, so it’s likely West will have to wait his turn to have a serious shot at starting.

If Mack does retire, the probable short-term solution would be having starting right guard Daniel Brunskill move over a spot to his left to snap the ball, leaving a notable void in his stead.

That’s where the Niners’ fourth-round draft pick out of UTSA, offensive lineman Spencer Burford, comes into play.

Burford, a former running back who beefed himself up to 295 pounds to become a lineman, moves exceptionally well and could easily be the top choice if San Francisco is forced to redeploy Brunskill.

Even if Mack decides to come back for one more year, Burford has to be considered in the running to possibly upgrade over Brunskill, too, relegating the latter to a still-important all-inclusive backup job.