A Blue Collar Man
May 24, 2007 at 3:28 PM
When you visualize in your mind what it is that defines a hard working man with bills to pay and putting in a honest day's work day in and day out, I think about what the San Francisco 49ers did in the first round of the 2007 NFL draft in conducting a trade with the New England Patriots to obtain Central Michigan's offensive tackle in Joe Staley with the 28th overall pick of this draft.
It was true leap of faith in a sure-fine talent to bolster an offensive line still in transition in some degree especially when it comes to the right side of the line where two of the linemen are in the last year of their contracts. Both right tackle Kwame Harris and right guard Justin Smiley are staring at the possibility of not returning as a 49er after the 2007 season.
In comes Central Michigan's Joe Staley as our new insurance policy in case that does happen. This is a tackle that was a little under the radar in comparison to Wisconsin's Joe Thomas and Penn State's Levi Brown but he is a pick that is within the top three for the position represented and is the best pick when you are thinking in terms of long-term potential.
Joe believes his best assets, as a tackle is his footwork and his ability to get to the second level of play very quickly. Right before the draft as a college player the mechanics he had been working on was his explosiveness off the ball and his best college career highlight was winning the MAC Championship against Ohio.
Vice President of Personnel Scot McCloughan acknowledges the 49ers interest in Joe Staley in a conversation conducted shortly after the draft in what was the mindset of the organization with selecting Joe Staley and sending their 2008 first round draft pick and the 49ers 110th overall pick this year in the fourth round to the New England Patriots.
There were at least 20 players that the 49ers had pinned on the board that were worthy of first round consideration. Joe Staley stood out above the rest especially with the need to resume the continuity of the offensive line in and around Alex Smith and to ensure that the ground game with Frank Gore would continue at a high success rate.
After working the phones with a vengeance the New England Patriots agreed to deal their second first round pick to us after selecting Brandon Meriweather a high-profile safety out of Florida. With that deal the San Francisco 49ers paid a heavy price in dealing their first round choice next season to the Patriots and a fourth round pick within this draft itself.
At first it seemed like a steep price to pay for a raw unheralded player out of Central Michigan that still had a lot to learn, yet the pressing need to build and sustain the offensive line has been something that has always been a high priority for Mike Nolan since coming to the 49ers two years ago.
What made the deal even more pressing ultimately was the fact that the Baltimore Ravens, Mike Nolan's former team as its defensive coordinator was cornering Joe Staley in their cross hairs as its next selection. So the message was sent to the 49ers War Room that a deal was imperative in order to attain Joe Staley's services.
McCloughan got the deal done with the New England Patriots and obtained a swing offensive tackle that can play either right or left tackle out of the gate and will be a productive tackle for many years to come.
The San Francisco 49ers actually were looking at selecting Joe Staley with their second round pick No. 42 overall as the draft began to unfold. But the consensus started to build as the Baltimore Ravens were identified as being interested with the No. 29 pick overall and that is what prompted the 49er brain-trust to do something now rather than later.
"As I've said in the past, we target about four players every time we make a selection," Nolan said. "Staley was the only one left of the four guys we were hoping to get at No. 42. So it was pretty quick the way those players came off the board, but we were hoping to make that happen for ourselves at 42, but it wasn't going to, so we felt it necessary to move up and make it happen sooner."
What happened shortly after this trade was an even more blockbuster of a trade conducted by McCloughan and Nolan in allowing the Indianapolis Colts to take our second round pick at No. 42 for their first round pick next year and a bonus that includes a fourth round pick as well. So within a short period of time the San Francisco 49ers had more than redeemed themselves in selling their soul within this draft to get it back next year with interest attached.
That is what I call bold and brilliant moves on the part of our coaching staff and scouting personnel as a whole. I can't say enough at how impressed I am with the talent analysis and evaluations being construed and conducted by Vice President of Personnel Scot McCloughan.
Mike Nolan worked a chapter of genius in acquiring him from the Seattle Seahawks when he came on board as the 49ers head coach because he knew that he needed a special evaluator of college talent and a person that had a proven track record to boot, that man was Scot without a doubt.
"As it worked out, when you look at the math, if you put it all together, w got Staley at 42 and we got our one (first rounder) back," Nolan said. "Next year's draft is a full, complete deal. We just have to perform better than Indianapolis on the record, and then we get a better pick. But nonetheless, we've got a one for next year and we've got all of our picks."
The emergence of Joe Staley as becoming a priority to the San Francisco 49ers looks at what has and is happening to the offensive line. Offensive line coach George Warhop one of the best line coaches inside the NFL, has made his case known that fresh talent is a necessity with the state of the union that the line is in right now.
Obviously we all know about the trade rumors involving right guard Justin Smiley and his possible weakness as being a little "undersized," at the right guard position when the evaluations had been said and done involving the last two seasons.
Mike Nolan has made it known publicly and to other teams that a deal for right guard Justin Smiley are on the record and he is for sale at the right price. Justin Smiley in return acknowledges that the 49ers are in the middle with him on rather to sign him or trade him and has accepted that as a reality.
Offensive right tackle Kwame Harris is also in the last year of his contract and may be the one that has the most to lose. He'll be in direct competition with Joe Staley and Adam Snyder for the coveted starting position. Harris has been maligned as being a total bust at the position especially in pass protection involving quarterback Alex Smith as the highest percentage of his sacks on film are seen being executed from Harris's position on the line.
Time and time again throughout the season 49er fans have seen what I've seen from this Stanford athlete and piano player. He has been ineffective as a pass protector and has cost us loss of down and yardage to boot.
His agility and motivation to reach the next level has never materialized in my opinion and he is never going to be better than what he already is. I would like to see a change at the position with a select candidate from David Baas, Adam Snyder or even Joe Staley. Staley will have an impact as a top reserve on the line or even a starter role should he annihilate Harris in training camp.
On the left side of the line perennial Pro Bowler left tackle Larry Allen is in the last year of his contract as well and is thinking retirement. The 11-time Pro Bowler had a spectacular year last year with us and solidified that side of the line alongside left tackle Jonas Jennings.
In 2003 Joe arrived on Central Michigan as a 225-pound tight end believe it or not. Back in high school he wanted in the beginning to become a professional baseball player but his hopes were dashed when he was cut from the high school baseball team. Not being a quitter he set his eyes on track and used it to help him as he entered the football arena. Staley went on to set three school records in track, two of which were relays and a third in the 200-meter run, the exact same event he finished sixth in the state in.
As a tight end with the Central Michigan Chippewas in his freshman year he caught 24 passes for 559 yards and seven touchdowns. He was then asked to make a drastic conversion to offensive tackle. Three years later and about 70 pounds heavier, Staley went on to establish himself as the Chippewas perennial left tackle last season with a career-high 100 knockdowns or key blocks, 22 of which resulted in touchdowns. He also assisted the team in producing a 1,000-yard rusher in each of those seasons as a part of the offensive line.
He is also one of the fastest offensive tackles in this draft hands down running a very impressive 4.86 on Astro-Turf at his Pro Day. Joe stands 6-foot-6 and weighs in at about 296-pounds.
Run Blocking: Quick to get his hands into the defender to lock on and control. He has good forward body lean to maintain the rush lane and can move the pile when he uses his legs to drive hard and gain leverage. With added bulk, he could be exceptional as a drive blocker.
Pass Blocking: Staley worked mostly from the spread and shotgun offense, but with his foot speed he was effective at sliding out to neutralize the edge rushers. He could use more bulk at anchor, but he has the feet balance and body control to ride his man out of play.
Initial Quickness: Has explosion off the snap jumps out on film. He has excellent initial quickness, showing a strong base with the suddenness to get his hands into the defender in an instant. He is very light on his feet for a player his size, showing quick reactions to combat any defensive movement.
Pulling/Trapping: He was not asked to do much of this, but has the quickness to turn it up on the second-level defenders, He is athletic and smooth in his movements and has the body control to execute blocks in space, but needs to maintain proper pad level working in the second level.
Downfield: He has great flexibility in reaching and adjusting to second-level defenders. He will smother linebackers up and move on to another target when he plays at a good pad level. He does a good job at executing pancake blocks when he stays on his feet, but must work on staying low in his pads.
Intangibles: He is quick to pick up defensive schemes, and has very good field vision and awareness. His personality changes from quiet and respectful off the field to aggressive and sometimes downright nasty when he gets into the trenches.
Overall: Staley's foot speed can rival that of Oakland raiders Robert Gallery, but he plays with even better aggression. Like Verba, Staley exhibits great fire and aggression in his play. He'll need to add bulk like Verba, though if he wants to play left tackle at the next level.1
Once again the key to his selection as a San Francisco 49er goes back to January when the 49ers were coaching at the Senior Bowl with the south squad and Staley happened to be a pupil of offensive line coach George Warhop.
"I feel like I was lucky to have played for Coach Warhop at the Senior Bowl because I know what he's about," said Staley. 'I understand his coaching style and it's something I respond well to and that I feel comfortable with. That really takes a lot of pressure and anxiety off the weekend, but I still think it'll be eye opening and challenging."
Joe Staely gives the 49ers added leverage to look at those linemen that are performing at a high level and those that aren't. The right side of the line has obviously been the suspect weakness of the line in relation to girth and bulk. Mike Nolan wants to get the right side to be similar to the left with monster-size linemen like Jonas Jennings and Larry Allen respectively.
Joe Staley now in at about 305-pounds has the ability and agility still to add on more bulk and still sustain his quickness if need be. If he can convert from a 225-pound tight end into an offensive tackle, then adding on a few more pounds will be like feeding candy to a baby hands down.
"I love playing the offensive line because there are individual battles that go on usually with the same guy all game long," Staley said. "Running backs may take on a linebacker or a safety and a receiver may try to dodge a defender, but on every play on the line, you are taking on someone that it is fun to break them down. It's a mental grind and it's competitive, and it's just something I truly love."
He needs to fulfill his role as a first round draft pick from this draft. We cannot have a Kwame Harris bust all over again. I don't see this guy slowing down, I see this guy pushing the accelerator all the way to the metal and never quitting. We obviously need to light a fire under Harris to make him move. Although Nolan has publicly said this isn't a reflection of Kwame Harris's performance out on the field this past season, we all can see the forest through the trees folks.
Allen, Harris and Smiley are all in the last years of their contracts. It will be interesting to see what happens during and after this season. I would love for Larry Allen to stay on a year or two more like any 49er fan should, but Joe Staley may in fact be the next starting lineman we all will be talking about.
Joe Staley is a hard-working blue collar type man you would see in a hot steamy paper mill working 12 hour days 5-6 days a week carrying a lunch pail to and from work. This is a union guy that will give you an honest days work each and everyday or die trying to.
We all can rest assure that he'll live up to those expectations and more as training camp convene and pre-season games start unfolding. Being in the trench like a World War I veteran stained with the enemies blood is what I see when Joe Staley explodes from his stance.
1 - Portions of analysis from The Sporting News
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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