49ers: All Eyes on Joshua Garnett; Who’s the Starting Right Guard?

The former 2016 first round pick, Joshua Garnett, enters his second year with big question marks over his head. Will he be in the starting line-up? Will he make the 2017 San Francisco 49ers roster? Niners Live is here to illustrate why he is on the hot seat.

 

The San Francisco 49ers’ previous regime traded back into the first round of the 2016 NFL draft to select Joshua Garnett from Stanford with the 28th overall pick.  Garnett, 6’4 312 lbs., won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman in the NCAA.  He was deemed as an instant upgrade that would inject a big mauler body to help the 49ers control the line of scrimmage.

Garnett’s rookie season wasn’t a smash hit. He didn’t win the starting job in training camp. When he was inserted into the starting line-up, it was because of his draft status. The original starter, Andrew Tiller, was getting his job done and shouldn’t have been benched based on performance as seen below at a glance, and by comparison.

Important Stats:  Garnett’s PFF grades 42.4 overall, 40.4 pass block, 42.4 run block on 716 total snaps played. Tiller’s PFF grades 72.7 overall, 74.4 pass block, 74.7 run block on 485 snaps played.

Garnett’s pass protection grade ranked last in the entire NFL. The offensive line as a whole surrendered 47 sacks in 2016.  That number must improve if the 49ers intend to have an efficient offense.

Recent article alert: San Francisco 49ers: The Right 53 Part 2 Featuring the Offense

Garnett must raise his game to the next level; especially pass protection, if he wants to win a starting guard position. In the offseason, the new coaching staff has given him reps at both right and left guard. The team also added veterans Tim BarnesBrandon Fusco and Jeremy Zuttah to the interior lineman competition. The writing is on the wall; Garnett will have to win a starting spot in training camp, and his draft status carries no weight with head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch.

NBC Sports Bay Area writer, Matt Maiocco, recently discussed Garnett’s situation in the Taylor Price Talk podcast.

“If Joshua Garnett is on the field, it’s because he earned it.(It’s because) he’s one of the five best offensive linemen. Last year, Andrew Tiller might have been their third-best offensive lineman last year. And because they traded up to get Joshua Garnett, Andrew Tiller was out of a job. He did nothing to lose that job. Joshua Garnett did nothing, quite frankly, to win that job, but the decision was made and everybody goes into it with their eyes wide open. Now that there’s a new coaching staff and John Lynch doesn’t care, Kyle Shanahan doesn’t care that [Garnett] was a first-round draft pick. It was a first-round draft pick for a different general manager, a different head coach, a different system. So, none of that matters,” stated Maiocco.

In Closing:  Joshua Garnett is officially off his first round pick scholarship and must prove his worth to the new regime. His rookie year was lackluster, which caused many to question if he was worth trading back into the first round for. He must improve his pass protection, footwork, strength and technique. There will be major competition for the starting guard positions and the only thing Garnett is promised is a shot to compete for a starting gig and spot on the 53 man roster. Diamonds are built under pressure; will Garnett be coal, or become a diamond?  All eyes will be on him and the offensive line training camp battles.

Please join us again soon on Niners Live, home of the fan and analyst.

As always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated but never duplicated… Go Niners.  

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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.comPro Football Focus49ers.comESPN.comNFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author Jimi Payne Staff Writer at Niners live. Co-Author, Editor Sequoia Sims.