Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


49ers determined to strengthen offensive line for 2021

May 6, 2021 at 4:30 PM5



The San Francisco 49ers have used this offseason to invest heavily in their offensive line. Last season, the line was efficient enough to be an above average unit, ranking ninth on PFF's final 2020 offensive line rankings. However, despite grading well for the most part, the offensive line unit had its share of struggles throughout the season, especially when it came to pass protection.

The 49ers allowed the most QB hits in the NFL, and were at the bottom of the league with 39 sacks allowed, an allowed sack rate of 6.40, and conceded 2.4 sacks per game on average per TeamRankings.com. Determined to improve the offensive line, the 49ers allocated salary cap space and spent draft capital to strengthen the position group.

The biggest move was re-signing LT Trent Williams to a six-year, $138 million deal. Williams was ranked as the best overall tackle in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, with an elite grade of 91.9 on 957 snaps. Williams was terrific in his return to head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense and will be the vital anchor on this line for years to come. Signing Williams prevented the 49ers from having to worry about a left tackle replacement heading into the offseason, and allowed them to focus on other needs via free agency and draft. The importance of re-signing Williams can't be stated enough.

Center was a big area of concern for the 49ers throughout the 2020 season, as they were forced to rotate between Daniel Brunskill, Ben Garland, and Hroniss Grasu due to injuries. The 49ers wasted no time addressing this issue by signing veteran Pro Bowl center, Alex Mack to a three-year, $14.8 million deal. Mack played with Shanahan in 2014 with the Cleveland Browns, and again in 2016 with the Atlanta Falcons. Mack has plenty of experience and is comfortable operating within Shanahan's outside zone scheme. Even though Mack, at 35, is getting older, he has still been the 2nd-highest rated center over the past 4 years (PFF.com), and is one of the best zone blocking centers in the NFL. His addition will bolster this team's ability to run the ball and provide stability to the center position.

The signings of Williams and Mack should solidify the offensive line and allow the 49ers to continue their dominate ground attack, while also protecting the quarterback. These moves alone would have been enough for the 49ers to head into the 2021 season with confidence.

But the 49ers were not done.

The 49ers decided to invest serious draft capital to further reinforce the line and to add much-needed depth. In the second round, the 49ers traded down five spots with the Las Vegas Raiders to grab right guard Aaron Banks from Notre Dame, with the 44th pick. At 6'5", 325 pounds, Banks does not fit the typical physical stature as most of Shanahan's linemen. He is an athletic, big-bodied mauler who uses raw physical power to move defensive linemen off the line of scrimmage. His size and quickness will allow the 49ers to incorporate more inside zone run concepts, while still staying true to the outside zone run. Banks was also a terrific pass blocker in college, allowing only two sacks and 19 total pressures in 443 pass sets over three seasons.


It should not be difficult for Banks to arrive at training camp and compete for a starting spot at right guard next to fellow Notre Dame alum, Mike McGlinchey. Banks could easily have the most impact among this year's rookie class and contribute right away.

Looking to add depth, the 49ers used their fifth-round pick, 155th overall, to draft run blocking specialist Jaylon Moore from Western Michigan. Moore is an exceptional run blocker who is able to move the line of scrimmage with a quick first step and massive frame used to latch onto defensive lineman and direct them out of the play. Moore will likely be a backup lineman but should get plenty of snaps coming off the bench in a swing role as a tackle or guard.


Making offensive line a top priority this offseason was a smart decision by GM John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, and with the group they have assembled, it is realistic to expect the 49ers should be one of the best units in the game. Regardless of who is playing quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance, he should be set up for success behind this line.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


5 Comments

  • hilary
    let's be honest. They took care of the LT and C position but with older players. Mack may have 2 more years in him and Williams 3 but anything after that in reality is a bonus. Brunskill, Tomlinson and Coleman are both FAs in 2022. The ugly bad contract they gave JG and their refusal to spend draft capital on the OL has left them with an aging OL. They need to get serious about getting a young stud at center to learn under Mack. Will that be Brunskill or a future draft pick? There is also FA but only if they get the albatross of that is JGs contract and do it soon. There is also the other FAs Warner included they may be able to get if the get that money back. The interesting FAs for next year are TJ Watt edge, Orlando Brown T, Johnathan Allen DT, Terron Armstead T. All top guys that will most likely get franchised but SF could compete for if there was no JG contract. The truth is they are set up for 2021 but things can go south fast for an OL. Look at what happened to SF's good OL when Anthony Davis decided to retire early. It to until McGlinchy to replace him.
    May 9, 2021 at 1:26 PM
    0
  • Chris Fuller
    Let's be honest about what the Niners did on the OL! They re-signed the best LT in the league in Trent Williams. Then they went out and picked up the 2nd best Center in the league in Alex Mack. They already have a badass LG in Tomlinson. Then they went out and drafted a Mauler and pass protector at RG in Aaron Banks in the second round. They have a 1st round pick at LT in Mcglinchy, who is just coming into his prime. Then they re-signed Brunskill and drafted Jaylon Moore in the 4th round, adding depth. This should be the best OL in the league!!! Starters: RT: Mike McGlinchey RG: Aaron Banks C: Alex Mack LG: Laken Tomlinson LT: Trent Williams Meaningful depth: Jaylen Moore (5th Rd Pick) Gaurd or Tackle Daniel Brunskill (re-signed) Tackle or Guard Players now on the bubble: Justin Skulle, Shawn Coleman, Jake Brendel, Tom Coton. Guaranteed Cut: Westen Richburg
    May 6, 2021 at 10:11 PM
    1
  • Chris Fuller
    Let's be honest about what the Niners did on the OL! They re-signed the best LT in the league in Trent Williams. Then they went out and picked up the 2nd best Center in the league in Alex Mack. They already have a badass LG in Tomlinson. Then they went out and drafted a Mauler and pass protector at RG in Aaron Banks in the second round. They have a 1st round pick at LT in Mcglinchy, who is just coming into his prime. Then they re-signed Brunskill and drafted Jaylon Moore in the 4th round, adding depth. This should be the best OL in the league!!! Starters: RT: Mike McGlinchey RG: Aaron Banks C: Alex Mack LG: Laken Tomlinson LT: Trent Williams Meaningful depth: Jaylen Moore (5th Rd Pick) Gaurd or Tackle Daniel Brunskill (re-signed) Tackle or Guard Players now on the bubble: Justin Skulle, Shawn Coleman, Jake Brendel, Tom Coton. Guaranteed Cut: Westen Richburg
    May 6, 2021 at 10:08 PM
    0
  • Bill Bruneau
    Perhaps the most under-rated re-signing was for Daniel Brunskill. He has been at least a journeyman, with flashes of high level consistency. I really like his ability to be thrown into situations without significant prep and he does great, all things considered. We will sorely need depth upon depth to survive 17 games with a good line.
    May 6, 2021 at 8:24 PM
    3
  • Michael Mariscal
    *The 49ers traded down 5 spots with the Raiders
    May 6, 2021 at 5:02 PM
    2

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