49ers OL coach would rather draft skill position players than O-linemen

The 49ers haven’t done much to prioritize the offensive line in the draft since head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch arrived in 2017.

They added right tackle Mike McGlinchey in the first round of the 2018 draft, and in 2021 they used a second-round pick on left guard Aaron Banks. Those are the only two picks in the first two rounds they’ve used on offensive linemen, and offensive line coach Chris Foerster shed some light on that philosophy when he spoke with reporters after Wednesday’s OTA session.

Transcription via the 49ers:

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. 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. The right guard makes a difference, we’ve talked about it before, but that’s where we’re able to find fourth and fifth round draft picks. How dominant is the difference between pick 34 versus pick 54, in offensive line play? And that’s what you’re trying to balance all the time. So, will we draft the best available player, all those types of things? Definitely will. And were we possibly ready to draft guys higher in the draft? Yes. 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 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.

This is a fascinating insight from Foerster that likely reflects part of San Francisco’s team-building philosophy. They’ve invested in free agent centers to try and find stability at that spot, and they replaced Joe Staley with Williams via trade during the 2020 draft. Beyond that they’ve been able to piece together really good offenses by investing in big-time playmakers and then working around deficiencies on the offensive line.

While it’s hard to argue with given their success at putting up points and yards under Shanahan, there’s a counterargument that says their Super Bowl hopes have been derailed by dominant defensive linemen in all five years that they’ve fallen just short of their goal.

Given Williams’ age we may see the 49ers make another big investment on the offensive line soon to shore up the left tackle spot, but beyond that don’t expect San Francisco to suddenly start using premium draft capital up front because even the offensive line coach doesn’t believe in doing so.

Story originally appeared on Niners Wire