Draft Focus for San Francisco 49ers in 2015: Offensive Line

In years past, the San Francisco 49ers were known as a team that can destroy you with its passing game. Having quarterbacks like Steve Young and Joe Montana definitely help out a ton. But the other main ingredient to that type of success is the lack of the salary cap.

Teams were able to make up for mistakes or injuries by simply plucking a disgruntled player off of another team, and then look for the next hole to fill. The fact that Eddie DeBartolo was willing to outspend everyone was a huge bonus to a franchise that had, before his ownership, been a lackluster franchise.

Now with the salary cap, mistakes are no longer as easy to fix, and a team without an elite quarterback can pretty much forget about even competing for a title. The 49ers have shown that the ability to draft NFL-ready receivers is very difficult. Many wonder why these guys can’t come out of college and immediately contribute.

Well that’s easy. It’s because they are playing a completely different ballgame. Think of when you dominated in the 8th grade, and then when you got to high school, you were nothing again. Well that is how it is for these players as well. (That is, with a whole lot of money, of course.) The development of receivers takes more time and costs millions of cap dollars that would be better spent on multiple players.

That brings about the entire reason for this article. The interior line is where the majority of the work is performed during the game. It is essential for a successful team to be able to get to as well as get to the quarterback. The way the games are officiated these days, it is of utmost importance for a team to have a great line on both sides of the ball.

For many years, the Oakland Raiders have tried to find success by getting a mobile quarterback that is agile enough to avoid the rush. Again, the focus should be on protecting a quarterback. If he also has the ability to run, then that’s a bonus.

The 49ers have struggled against teams that feature a great defensive line. It means that both the tight end and running backs have to hold their positions longer, which makes them less effective. The dreams of Vance McDonald and Vernon Davis running double tights against linebackers does not mean anything if they have to stay in pass protection. Without a stellar offensive line, your offensive specialists don’t have the opportunity to be special. So what the 49ers need in the first round of the draft this year is not a wide receiver or cornerback, but an offensive lineman.

Sep 20, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes offensive linesman Brandon Scherff (68) breaks off of the line of scrimmage against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Hawkeyes won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The hope would be that Iowa’s Brandon Scherff or La’El Collins, out of LSU, drops to them at 15. Both are tackles but are seen as better fits at guard in the NFL, which would allow either Brandon Thomas or Alex Boone to become valuable depth pieces.

If those two are already gone, then the next best prospect would be offensive tackle Ereck Flowers. He also has some scouts thinking that he would be better at guard in the NFL. The transition from tackle to guard is seen as an easier one than vice-versa.

The time to panic has not started for the 49ers just yet. Yes, they have had a few unexpected departures this off-season, but the team built equity within itself by drafting injured players so they are available a year later. It was and still is the right way to draft if you don’t have current needs and roster space. Like in the NBA when they draft a player and stash him in Europe for five years. Now it’s time for players like Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial to get their opportunities.

With nine total picks this year, the team can use a couple to move up or even add picks for next year. In the second round, cornerback Jalen Collins, if he drops that far, or cornerback P.J. Williams would fit nicely. Both have the talent to be taken in the first round.

Others to watch later on in the draft are Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates, Arizona State defensive tackle Marcus Hardison, San Jose State defensive end Travis Raciti. It also might be a good draft to get a young quarterback to groom for the future. One name to watch is Garrett Grayson out of Colorado State. If he falls to the fourth round, as some mock drafts have shown, then it may be wise to take a flyer on him.

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