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Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

49ers OL coach prioritizes adding playmakers over O-linemen

May 30, 2024 at 12:53 PM

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy has an enviable array of playmakers around him, teammates who can take the football and find their way into the end zone. However, most fans and analysts expected the 49ers to fortify the right side of the offensive line early in the draft.

While Trent Williams remains one of the best offensive linemen in the game, anchoring the left side, the right side has shown inconsistency, standing out as a weak spot in an otherwise strong offensive lineup.

That remains the case heading into the 2024 season. Yes, the 49ers drafted two offensive linemen this year, but not until the third and sixth rounds. Whether rookies Dominick Puni or Jarrett Kingston surprise and secure a starting job remains to be seen.

"We looked at numerous guys throughout the process," general manager John Lynch told reporters after the draft. "I think when you're drafting 31st, it's oftentimes hard to find a tackle that you really love. And we like our tackles as they stand right now. We like our depth with Jaylon Moore being a really talented guy who can play the swing role.

"We drafted Kingston, who has some flex at tackle, and we'll continue to always try to improve ourself, improve the depth of our team. But we're excited about our O-line group. I know a lot of people talk about that, but we feel pretty good about our group."

It's apparent that the 49ers put more emphasis on adding skill-position players than upgrading the offensive line responsible for protecting the team's young, talented quarterback. That was evident in their first-round selection of wide receiver Ricky Pearsall. Offensive line coach Chris Foerster supports this strategy, believing in prioritizing playmakers who can directly impact the game.

"This is my personal opinion, if they ask me, invest in guys that touch the ball, guys that can touch the ball and score touchdowns," Foerster said this week. "And then there's a range of guys, second, third, fourth round, fifth round even, that we will find starting offensive linemen in. At some point, can you draft them? Yeah, you draft Trent Williams. You pick a draft where you're getting a difference-maker. But there's guys that can make a difference, that touch the ball, well into the second, third, fourth rounds, or second and third rounds, at least. And definitely in the first round. That guy that touches the ball, it makes a huge difference in the game."

Foerster argued that the talent gap between first-round offensive linemen and those available later in the draft is less significant than it is for skill players. The 49ers' draft philosophy aims to secure the best talent available, regardless of position.

"And were we possibly ready to draft guys higher in the draft? Yes," Foerster continued. "But if there's somebody that can touch the ball and make plays, in my opinion, if you ask me, 'Chris, do you want him?' I want the guy that touches the ball, for me, because I think we can develop those players much more readily and have developed those players through the times because we do have specific things that we're looking for. We know what we're looking for through the course of time. That's the advantage of being together with Kyle [Shanahan] for so long, that we kind of can pigeonhole these guys.

"Are we always right? Heck no, we're not always right, and nobody is on anything. Could you put five first-rounders across the front? I don't know that we have to, to have success. And it hasn't been that case as far as running the football and protecting the quarterback. We don't have five first-rounders, so there's always going to be that.

"But, the fact that you can throw a short pass to [WR] Deebo [Samuel], even though the right tackle's getting beat, it ends up being a 60-yard touchdown. So yeah, the right tackle blocks somebody, but if the guy gets tackled at five yards, you don't have the 60-yard touchdown."

The 49ers are set to start the 2024 season with the same offensive line as last year: Trent Williams at left tackle, Aaron Banks at left guard, Jake Brendel at center, Jon Feliciano at right guard, and Colton McKivitz at right tackle. Team decision-makers believe this continuity, combined with a roster full of playmakers, is enough to make another Super Bowl run.

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