2018 NFL Draft: Looking at Offensive Linemen Options for the 49ers

The 49ers recently announced the signing of Center Daniel Kilgore to a three-year contract extension through the 2020 season (via the team’s website). With the news of Kilgore’s signing, Niners Live now turns our attention to: 2018 NFL Draft: Looking at Offensive Linemen options for the 49ers. 

 

Let’s recap shall we?

You may or may not have realized this, but the first three games of the 2018 NFL season kicked off two weeks prior to the Super Bowl with the East-West Shrine Game, NFLPA Colligate All-Star Game, and most notably the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

The second off-season for 49ers’ General manager John Lynch will be about continuing to find talent in the draft and in free agency to add to this young, but emerging, roster. With that in mind, Niners Live is going to be looking at players, in both the draft and free agency, who are good fits in scheme, character, and availability and who will come in and add to the development of the roster. Some big names are not included in this list. While they are talented, to build a Super Bowl roster, it is of the utmost most importance to add guys that fit within the team structure (scheme, character, and availability).

And sometimes, that means passing up on someone who is more talented for someone who fits. When asked about the importance of meeting with the players at the Senior Bowl, Lynch answered NFL Network’s Alex Flanagan by saying, ”That’s critical because you start defining the type of guys you want in your building. And, as important as the talent is, that piece is just as important. And you look at the successful organizations, and they’ve figured that out.”

Niners Live side note: In 2017 Lynch signed a total of nine players from the Shrine Game and the Collegiate Bowl, including players who logged time as starters such as wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, guard Eric Magnuson, defensive back Adrian Colbert, and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. One other East-West Shrine Game Alumni, Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who won the Offensive MVP Award in 2014.

When the 2018 off-season kicked off with the collegiate all-star games, it offered Lynch and Company an opportunity to observe prospects practicing in an NFL environment, begin the interview process of meeting prospects one-on-one and give the prospects one last opportunity to display their on-field talents in a live game. Or, as Lynch put it, “They’re actually playing football. They’re not running forties.”

The most troublesome unit on the team last season was the offensive line, so that is where we will begin. The following are five players in the 2018 NFL Draft that can come in and help add talent and competition to the offensive line. Each has one or more talents that can be an upgrade to their respective position from the level of production given by the incumbent starter at the position in 2017.

2018 Draft Prospects: Five Offensive Linemen the 49ers Should Consider

Isaiah Wynn, OG/ C/ OT, Georgia, SR

Height: 6-2   Weight: 302   Age: 22

Positional Ranking:  6th OT  ( per CBS Sports) 

Projected Round: 2nd – 3rd   (per  Walterfootball

Why He Fits:

The sixth best tackle prospect by CBS Sports, Wynn has shown versatility to play and impact the game from any position on the offensive line. If he was listed as a guard, he would easily be the second-ranked guard behind Quenton Nelson. Wynn is a powerful blocker with the athletic ability to play the outside zone scheme head coach Kyle Shanahan employs. While CBS lists him as a tackle prospect, expect Wynn to be used as a guard and backup center. He will definitely be one of the offensive linemen to suit up on game days from his rookie year forward, and push for a starting job. The only question that remains with Wynn is, like every rookie, how fast he can pick up the language and assignments of an NFL offense. The next question is how many Pro Bowl and All-Pro Teams will Wynn finish his career with.

Braden Smith, OG, Auburn, SR

Height: 6-6   Weight: 303   Age: 21

Positional Ranking: 3rd OG (per CBS Sports)

Projected Round: 2nd – 3rd (per  Walterfootball

Why He Fits:

Smith is one of the most powerful and athletic offensive linemen in the draft this year. When Smith’s assignment says you need to be blocked, usually you end up on your back. Nibble on his toes. Smith has the ability to pull and meet with bad intentions. As a pass blocker Smith showed the change of direction skills to keep pass rushers at bay. Some rumors about an end of the year injury due to him missing the Senior Bowl. If he checks out healthy, Shanahan can add a starting guard to the line that can grow and be a staple for the duration of his career.  Don’t believe me? Just ask the defensive lines of Georgia, Clemson, and Auburn, three of college football’s best defensive lines in 2017.

Billy Price, OC, Ohio State, SR

Height: 6-4   Weight: 312   Age: 22

Positional Ranking: 3rd  ( per CBS Sports)

Projected Round: 1st – 2nd  (per  Walterfootball

Why He Fits:

Smart, athletic with good strength to hold up the front of the pass pocket to allow Jimmy G to step into his throws. Price showed in college the ability to pull as a center. Played in a zone type of running game at OSU, so he will be asked to do a lot of things that he found success doing at the college level. Needs to continue adding strength while not gaining too much weight which might make him lose his movement ability. He is talented enough to come in as a rookie and push for the starting center role. Also can backup both guard positions in the event he doesn’t win a starting role.

Connor Williams, OT, Texas, JR

Height: 6-6   Weight: 315   Age: 20

Positional Ranking: 4th OT ( per CBS Sports)

Projected Round: 2nd – 4th  (per Walterfootball

Why He Fits:

Protecting Jimmy G over the next few years is going to be one of the most important roles in the success of the offense. Williams has the talent to do just that, while providing a force on the edge in the run game. Speed and power rushers both have trouble getting around the frame of Williams due to the skill displayed when sliding or anchoring himself while pass blocking. The tough play of Williams will only help this offensive line to take the next steps in becoming one of the league’s best.

Important to note: Williams suffered a sprained PCL and MCL as well as a torn meniscus in his left knee against USC in the third game of the season in 2017 and missed seven games, but returned and played at an elite level.

Quenton Nelson, OG, Norte Dame, JR

Height: 6-5   Weight: 330   Age: 22

Positional Ranking: 1st OG ( per CBS Sports)

Projected Round:  1st   ( per  Walterfootball

Why He Fits:

The consensus number one linemen in this draft and the drafts number two overall player regardless of position. Nelson has the talent to become a Pro Bowler and All-Pro as a rookie. The best film of an offensive linemen in the past decade, it’s no wonder why DeShone Kizer played so well in college. The scheme does not hinder the effectiveness of Nelson, as his power and athletic ability are both five-stars. Watching game film of Nelson is like watching most prospects highlight films. According to Pro Football Focus, “Nelson is dominant in the run game, leading all guards with a 96.4 grade in 2017 and ranking fifth at 89.5 in 2016. He’s improved every year in pass protection, allowing only five pressures last season.”

I’ll close with this

Over the last few years the 49ers have invested heavily on the defensive side of the ball, most notably the defensive line, and rightfully so. However, if we’re going to stay true to the football narrative of building through the trenches; come the 2018 NFL draft, expect the 49ers to invest into the offensive line as they attempt to protect the highest paid player in the NFL, Jimmy G., and their franchise investment.

Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, of course. Often imitated, but never duplicated.

All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.comPro Football Focus49ers.comESPN.comNFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Edward Erving Staff Writer @NinersLive.net and  Co-Author, Content Creator, player break down specialist and Co-Editor Sequoia Sims