Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports


49ers Roster Breakdown: Trent Williams the Key Domino for the Run Game

Justin Wong
Mar 14, 2021 at 1:14 PM0


The zone-blocking run scheme has been a Kyle Shanahan staple for several years with an emphasis on athleticism in his offensive linemen to highlight the running backs. What could we expect from the offensive line and running backs this season?

Regardless of who goes under center, the 49ers only have two starting offensive linemen heading into the offseason with right tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Laken Tomlinson. Oft-injured center Weston Richburg is set to retire while there should be an open competition for the right guard spot. Versatile offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill is an exclusive rights free agent and was tendered to a one-year contract. The biggest question this offseason lies in the 49ers' ability to re-sign unrestricted free agent tackle Trent Williams to an extension.


The initial approach by the 49ers' front office to the running back position was to aggressively target free agents. While full back Kyle Juszczyk ended up paying dividends despite the high price tag, the same can't be said for running backs Jerick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman. All three are free agents, with Juszczyk as the most likely candidate to be retained; running backs Jeff Wilson Jr. and Austin Walter were given one-year deals. With Wilson, Jr., Matt Breida, and Raheem Mostert - all undrafted running backs - achieving success in Shanahan's system, it seems the head coach now puts less emphasis on the individual player and more on the scheme fit. The 49ers seem content with a running back-by-committee strategy, having Mostert as the presumed starter.

49ers OL Free Agents


  • Trent Williams — UFA
  • Tom Compton — UFA
  • Ben Garland — UFA
  • Tony Bergstrom — UFA
  • Hroniss Grasu — UFA
  • Daniel Brunskill — ERFA

49ers RB Free Agents


  • Tevin Coleman — UFA
  • Jerick McKinnon — UFA
  • Kyle Juszczyk — UFA
  • Jeff Wilson Jr. — RFA
  • Austin Walter — ERFA

Initial Outlook


With just two starters set to return on the offensive line, is it time to panic? It could be depending on one key domino—Trent Williams.

The initial reports concerning the 49ers retaining their prized left tackle have been positive; Williams has enjoyed his stay with 49ers but is curious to see his value on the open market. The 49ers aren't looking for a hometown discount for Williams as his projected annual salary could range between $20-25 million.

It's encouraging that the 49ers retained Brunskill because his versatility will have a pivotal role in how they address the interior spots. Brunskill's proven ability to play both center and right guard are key, as the 49ers need to figure out who takes over at both positions.

Between their current pool of Brunskill, Colton McKivitz, and Justin Skule I think they'll be able to fill the right guard spot internally.

The center position is a more critical piece to the Shanahan offense as I would expect them to be more aggressive in upgrading that department. Once again, the caliber of free agent offensive linemen the 49ers can target will depend on their impending free-agent left tackle.


Between the two position groups, priority goes to the offensive line over the running backs. The 49ers seem content with their current stable of running backs, but they could add a couple of late free agents to compete in training camp.

Free Agency


If the 49ers are unable to re-sign Williams to a long-term deal, there aren't many great options for a plan B. Williams is in a tier of his own for this free agent class; the next best options would be the Steelers' Alejandro Villanueva, the Chiefs' Mitchell Schwartz, and the Vikings' Riley Reiff. It's a steep drop-off in talent that gives more leverage for Williams at the negotiating table.

It would be ideal if they can keep it in-house and re-sign Garland to a reasonable deal to compete for a starting role. Both Garland and Brunskill have played center in the past but given the importance of the position, I'd like to see the 49ers get a more established player.

If the 49ers are unable to re-sign Williams, they could potentially shift their budget towards the interior. The center free agent class is highlighted by the Packers' Corey Linsley but there could be some value with the Patriots' David Andrews and the Falcons' Alex Mack; both carry injury concerns (gasp), but have enough upside to justify the move. While I think the 49ers are content at filling in their guard spots internally or through the NFL draft, it would make sense for them to find some value in the Giants' Kevin Zeitler and the Bears' Kyle Long. After seeing prized free agent Richburg level off due to injuries, I can understand the level of caution by 49ers fans when it comes to injury concerns.

As mentioned earlier, I would not expect the 49ers to make any notable additions at the running back position via free agency. A couple of notable names that would be good fits for the 49ers' running scheme are the Colts' Marlon Mack, the Panthers' Mike Davis, and the Broncos' Phillip Lindsay.

Draft


If the 49ers are unable to figure out their tackle situation between Williams or free agency, it becomes almost certain that the 49ers invest a Day 1 draft pick on the position. Aside from Penei Sewell, a project top-five pick, the 49ers should have options in Northwestern Rashawn Slater, Virginia Tech Christian Darrisaw, Alabama Alex Leatherwood, Michigan Jalen Mayfield, and Oklahoma State Tevin Jenkins as tackle prospects.

The top guard prospect in this year's draft class is USC Alijah Vera-Tucker, but I would expect the 49ers to look at the interior spots in the later rounds. The 49ers have seven draft picks in Day 3 and could find some value in this department.

Unless Shanahan falls in love with a particular running back prospect (circa 2017 Joe Williams), I would not expect the 49ers to draft a running back this year. They'll likely venture into the undrafted free agency pool similar to last season when they signed Austin Walter, Salvon Ahmed, and JaMycal Hasty.

Overall Outlook


If the 49ers' front office feels like it is a win-now team with the current roster, it cannot afford to blink on the Williams' situation. The plan B scenario is not a pretty one with a weak free agent tackle class along with uncertainty to trust a rookie at left tackle. The rest of the depth concerns have feasible alternatives with free agent signings and/or mid-round draft picks to round out the group.

The running back group looks to be in good shape as long as the offensive line is solidified. There's always going to be a concern with the viability of Mostert for a full-season slate but I'll give the 49ers the benefit of the doubt in their ability to find production from whoever takes carries in the backfield.

Next: Roster Breakdown: Secondary
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


0 Comments

  • No Comments

Facebook Comments



More San Francisco 49ers News



49ers OTAs: Day 2 breakdown

By Rohan Chakravarthi
4 hrs

The San Francisco 49ers had their second organized team activities(OTAs) day on Tuesday, which was the first day open to the media. All eyes were on quarterback Trey Lance, who has faced unnecessary scrutiny since the beginning of the offseason, as it was the first time that he was seen on the 49ers' field in a practice capacity since then. Here's a breakdown of Tuesday's practice: Trey Lance does Trey Lance things Fresh off a number of rumors, Trey Lance came out onto the practice field and dazzled during 7-on-7s, completing 15 of 17 passes during



49ers' George Kittle: 'Trent Williams is the best football player in the NFL'

By David Bonilla
May 20

Trent Williams' 97.8 overall Pro Football Focus grade from the 2021 regular season led the NFL. In fact, it was the highest-ever grade awarded by the analytics site. Now, some will criticize the grade, arguing that you can't consider an offensive tackle the best player in the league. Don't tell that to All-Pro tight end George Kittle, Williams' San Francisco 49ers teammate. "Trent Williams is the best football player in the NFL," Kittle declared Friday on The Pat McAfee Show (h/t NBC Sports Bay Area). "I don't care. You could talk to me about any



49ers roster: 3 positions that improved this offseason and 2 that are worse

By Rohan Chakravarthi
7 hrs

Following their defeat to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game this offseason, the San Francisco 49ers sought to improve their roster with their available cap space, expecting a quarterback change for 2022. Fast-forward a couple of months and the 49ers now have a clearer picture of their 2022 team, which has experienced some significant roster turnover at certain positions. Which positions on the roster improved following free agency and the draft, and which got worse? Improved 1. Wide Receiver Despite rostering a



49ers rookie Kalia Davis not molding his game after D.J. Jones

By Rohan Chakravarthi
May 13

The San Francisco 49ers begin their rookie minicamp on Friday afternoon, giving fans and media their first look at the nine rookies the team drafted, as well as the undrafted free agents the team signed or invited to camp. One player that likely will not participate in team drills is sixth-round defensive tackle Kalia Davis, who is recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last fall, which likely played a role in his falling draft stock. Davis has had an intriguing journey, playing linebacker during his freshman season before transitioning to the defensive line, which he attributed to his bigger size. "Well really, I moved from linebacker to D-lineman because my body was changing," Davis said. "I [gained] a little too much weight. The biggest part about


Featured

More by Justin Wong

More Articles

Share 49ersWebzone