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John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan explain why the 49ers didn’t address O-line in the draft

Apr 29, 2023 at 5:17 PM--

Most assumed that the San Francisco 49ers would use the 2023 NFL Draft to restock their offensive line, at least adding some depth to the group after losing Mike McGlinchey and Daniel Brunskill in free agency. That didn't happen. The team didn't add a single offensive lineman.

"There wasn't one there that would fit," head coach Kyle Shanahan explained to reporters once the draft was in the books. "We would love to take an O-lineman, but the drafted didn't work out that way."

General manager John Lynch added, "I think even in the first round, in a year that was very limited, especially at the tackle position, a lot of them went early. There was a huge run early. That affected [the decision]. It starts at the top, and then it's a trickle-down effect, or whatever you call it. And that happened. We weren't going to take one just to take one."

It means the 49ers are conformable entering the 2023 season with what they have, including Colton McKivitz replacing McGlinchey. The 49ers were open to trading McGlinchey last season, but nothing came of that. A trade would have left McKivitz to handle the right side for the remainder of the season.

Is the fact that San Francisco did not select a tackle a vote of confidence in McKivitz?

"Very much so," Lynch responded. "We believe in Colton."

McKivitz earned the 49ers' gold helmet in the team's 2020 pre-draft evaluation process. That honor goes to those few players who the evaluators believe have elite traits and are as close to can't-miss as possible.

"The gold helmet is a hard standard up there," Lynch explained. "We give it to very few people. Colton was one of those when he came out of West Virginia. I think, when he got here, we didn't necessarily see that all the time because he was shy. It took him a little while, but I think over time, as his confidence grew, you started to see all those traits and qualities. The spirit, as we call it, really started to show. And then Colton's sneaky talented as well, and we like him a lot as a player."

Shanahan feels the same way about McKivitz and the rest of the offensive line. He doesn't believe a rookie would come in and beat anyone out for a starting job. At least, not where the 49ers were drafting.

"Getting an O-lineman ready to start in this league is really tough," Shanahan said, "especially how different playing in the league is in college and the lack of preparation we get with how OTAs are this year, how much shorter training camp is. But you can win with Colton. He's been here for a while, and when he has played, we have won games with him. Did a hell of a job last year helping us—or two years ago—getting into the playoffs when he had to start unexpectedly versus the Rams in [Week] 17, I think."

The coach sees the situation much like the one with Jake Brendel last year, with the team not seeing anyone who might beat out an established and experienced player.

Shanahan added, "If there's someone there that falls that you think can beat out your starter, that's a good pick. But it's not easy to find a guy at pick 99 or later who can beat out Colton McKivitz, just like you don't just find anyone [who can beat] Jake Brendel last year."

The 49ers admit they had hoped to add some offensive line depth via the draft. San Francisco did add two offensive linemen, Matt Pryor and Jon Feliciano, via free agency.

"[W]e think Matt Pryor is a guy who's shown that he can play," Lynch shared. "So that gives you—at least, whoever we draft better be able to beat him out, and we didn't see that happening."

The 49ers didn't want to draft offensive linemen just to draft them. They had to be sure those players could make the roster. Otherwise, they are wasted selections.

"And then you got Jaylon Moore, who's been our swing tackle for a couple of years, who's played in games," Shanahan said. "So it's not only finding someone who can have a chance to compete with a starter, which we feel we brought in some vets to do that, but if they can't compete with a starter, they have to beat out those vets to make the team.

"And when you look at a draft and you look at O-linemen, and you're sitting there and your first pick is at 99, all the way down, we're not just talking about who can come start at a position. We're talking about who do we think can make the team."

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