The 49ers have a stacked roster on both sides of the ball heading into the 2023 season, but there is this lone concern that stands out.
For the most part, depending on who you ask, the San Francisco 49ers are a top-five team heading into the 2023 NFL season. And considering just how weak the NFC is right now, there's an array of good reasons why the Niners end up as legitimate Super Bowl contenders who have a relatively easy path to get there.
The Philadelphia Eagles may still be in the way, yes. But that's a story for another time.
At any rate, head coach Kyle Shanahan's roster is stacked on both offense and defense despite losing some high-profile players via NFL free agency, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, safety Jimmie Ward and right tackle Mike McGlinchey.
For a few years now, Shanahan and Co. have had success "promoting from within," meaning they've either signed or drafted players with little intention of playing them right away but rather in a year or two down the line when a start winds up pricing himself out of the team's comfort range.
Case in point, in 2021, San Francisco used a second-round NFL Draft pick on offensive guard Aaron Banks, but Banks scantly saw the field his rookie season while Pro Bowler Laken Tomlinson held down the left guard spot.
Once the 49ers couldn't afford to keep Tomlinson on the roster entering 2022, it was Banks' turn to shine.
And he did.
Now, with the 2023 season on the horizon, the Niners are poised to do the same in the wake of McGlinchey's free-agent departure to the Denver Broncos.
That process, however, is creating some doubt over with the folks at Pro Football Focus.
Pro Football Focus isn't sure about 49ers plan to replace Mike McGlinchey, list Colton McKivitz as 'biggest X-factor'
Dalton Wasserman and Jim Wyman of Pro Football Focus went through and predicted all 32 teams' starting lineups on both offense and defense, and they also included the No. 1 X-factor for every team heading into the upcoming season.
Interestingly enough, Wasserman and Wyman didn't look at San Francisco's somewhat-volatile situation at quarterback between the trio of Brock Purdy, Trey Lance and Sam Darnold.
No, they looked at McGlinchey's presumed replacement, offensive lineman Colton McKivitz.
Here's what the PFF duo had to say about McKivitz filling in for McGlinchey moving forward:
"The 49ers ranked 10th in the league in run blocking last season. It was their lowest ranking since Kyle Shanahan has been head coach. Longtime right tackle Mike McGlinchey departed for Denver in free agency, leaving the lightly experienced McKivitz an opportunity to take the job. He carries a career 56.4 overall grade on just 446 career snaps. He’s been in the system for three years, so there shouldn’t be any learning curve. The offensive line is still the engine of this team, but there are some major uncertainties outside of Trent Williams."
It's hard to argue with any of that, particularly the part about McKivitz. Yet Banks performed well in his first year as a starter, while center Jake Brendel's efforts in his first year starting earned him a re-sign deal from the 49ers earlier this offseason, too.
Perhaps only the right side consisting of McKivitz and second-year pro Spencer Burford should draw some worry.
If it did, though, the Niners aren't acting the part. Throughout the 2023 NFL Draft, not one of the team's 11 picks entering the three-day period was used on an offensive lineman.
Sounds like a pretty good endorsement, and they probably feel a lot more comfortable with McKivitz than PFF does.