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Why ESPN analyst hopes 49ers address O-line in the draft

Apr 9, 2024 at 2:03 PM

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ESPN analyst Matt Miller watches the San Francisco 49ers differently than other teams. As a 49ers fan, he feels more invested in the team's successes and failures than most analysts.

With the draft nearing, Miller made it clear which direction he believes head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch should take with their first pick. In his ESPN mock draft, a seven-round doozy, the analyst had the 49ers selecting former Arizona offensive lineman Jordan Morgan.

Miller recently joined the 49ers Webzone "No Huddle" podcast, sharing why he adamantly hopes the team addresses the offensive line at the end of the month.

"So I do think it's a huge need," Miller told host Al Sacco. "And I will say I've been banging that drum since, like, October, so it wasn't just like a postseason overreaction. It was when I really started diving in on team needs, probably around October, and looking at, like, okay, Trent Williams is a Hall of Famer. He's getting older, and I'm going to cry the day he retires because he's such a huge part of this team."

Adding a tackle in the draft might be a priority for the 49ers because after a handful of them, the drop-off in talent is significant, or players available later might not necessarily be a scheme fit.

"So if one's there at 31, you almost would move on that position just because there's not the depth," Miller said. "And I think that's really important when teams build out their board."

Miller adds that guard Aaron Banks is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next year, and the 49ers' right side of the offensive line needs more talent.

"I think when you look at the totality of the line from center to right tackle, you don't have anyone kind of lifting that group up," Miller explained. "You can look at so many teams, like Kansas City two years ago during their Super Bowl run when they beat the Eagles. It was like that. If you've got really solid guys at three or four spots, it's okay to have a right tackle who's struggling."

Instead, Shanahan has to rely on scheme and quarterback Brock Purdy's efficiency to cover up flaws in the trenches. Miller notes that having a more impactful player, other than Williams, along the offensive line would be highly beneficial.

"When I did my final team needs (for the 49ers) ... it was like, right tackle, guard, center," Miller said. "Those are the spots that I would start with for San Francisco."

If the 49ers addressed the center position, Miller believes former West Virginia center Zach Frazier would fit nicely into Shanahan's offense.

"He's just tough as hell, really athletic," Miller stated. "And so, would he be a first-round player for every team? Probably not. But I think for San Francisco, I would consider him just because I think he's plug-and-play, and he's going to give you that toughness and the agility on the inside."

Notably, Miller acknowledges that the center class is really strong in the upcoming draft, so the 49ers might be able to address that position after the first round. Whether it's Round 1 or later, Miller is strongly advocating for San Francisco to address the position.

Miller concluded, "I think left tackle and center, to me, are the two most important positions up front, so I do think it's a spot you invest."
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