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ESPN believes 49ers are best fit for top free agent O-lineman

Feb 21, 2024 at 2:27 PM--

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ESPN recently ranked the top 50 impending free agents this offseason. This week, Matt Bowen took a closer look at the list, assigning a "best fit" for each player. One player stood out as a potential game-changer for the San Francisco 49ers, filling a significant need for head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad.

Guard Robert Hunt came in at No. 14 within the free agent ranking and is the top-ranked offensive lineman on the list. Bowen sees a pairing between Hunt and the 49ers as a great match.

"The 49ers can upgrade at the right guard position with Hunt, who in Miami showed he has the ability to win in pass protection and the skill set to block in multiple run schemes," Bowen explained. "That's a fit for Kyle Shanahan's offense, which needs help on the offensive line; San Francisco was 20th in pass block win rate last season (55.6%)."

Hunt boasted an impressive Pro Football Focus grade of 76.4, ranking sixth among all guards this past season, including the playoffs. The offensive lineman earned a run-blocking grade of 74.7 and a pass-blocking grade of 74.4, allowing only five pressures and one sack throughout the season. While Hunt missed six games in 2023 due to a hamstring injury, he started every game in the previous two seasons.

The 49ers' offensive line, especially on the right side, could benefit significantly from an upgrade. Addressing the group in the draft remains a strong possibility, with San Francisco expected to own 11 selections once compensatory picks are distributed next month.

In 2023, the team rotated between Spencer Burford and Jon Feliciano, with the former taking most of the snaps. However, Pro Football Focus ranked Feliciano as the fifth-highest graded guard in the NFL last season, playoffs included, while Burford ranked 66th.

Regarding the offensive line's overall performance, Pro Football Focus recently ranked the 49ers' unit 21st in the league, with Trent Williams standing out as the top performer.

"It is not easy to rank the San Francisco offensive line, which features arguably the best offensive lineman in football, left tackle Trent Williams," analyst Zoltán Buday wrote. "The unit's other four projected starters failed to step up this season, though."

Buday added, "Jon Feliciano's play late in the season was a pleasant surprise, as he was one of the better run-blocking guards in the entire NFL down the stretch."

H/t to Kyle Madson of Niners Wire for the find.

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