San Francisco 49ers’ GM, coach rave about 3rd-round pick Dominick Puni of Kansas

The San Francisco 49ers believe they landed one, versatile offensive lineman in the third round of the 2024 NFL Draft in Dominick Puni of Kansas.

“His coaches rave about how he knows all five positions (on O-line),” 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters Friday night in a news briefing held after day two of the draft.

The Niners dealt their third-round pick at No. 94 and a fourth-rounder (No. 132) to the Philadelphia Eagles to select Puni with the No. 86 pick during second-day action at the three-day proceedings.

So where will the Niners play the 6-foot-5, 313-pound Puni, who began his college career at right tackle at Central Missouri in 2018 before shifting to left tackle the next two seasons at the Division II school? He played left guard at KU in 2022 then moved to left tackle last season, where he started every game.

“I took a visit to the 49ers about two weeks ago. It was my last visit,” Puni, a native of St. Charles, Missouri, said in a video call with reporters who cover the Niners. “They saw me more as an interior guard or center, being able to help inside, tackle if needed in a pinch.”

“I can play wherever I can help the team. That’s really my ambition. I think the Niners have a really fun offensive plan. I’m really excited.”

Shanahan said Friday night that guard is where the Niners will play Puni.

“I like the quickness he has, one of the top 20 shuttles in Indy, which shows it,” Shanahan said, “Most of his clips are at tackle. When we picture his length and his quickness, we think we’re going to start him inside at guard. He played some center at the Senior Bowl. We think we have our best chance inside.”

Noted 49ers general manager John Lynch: “I believe we are going to start him on the inside as a guard. The cool thing about Dominick … it is not often you can say about a player he can play all five (OL positions). We believe that’s the case with him.

“He snapped in the Senior Bowl in Mobile (Alabama), played some center in the game, played left tackle in 2023, guard the previous year. We believe he has it in him. That’s the cool thing to have in a player. He can do it in a high level (like the Senior Bowl). It’s part of the reason we moved up to take him. We’re really fired up about him.”

Puni, KU’s highest-drafted player since Aqib Talib (first round, 2008), is known as an exceptional pass blocker. On 343 pass block snaps a year ago, he allowed zero sacks.

“The path has been crazy,” Puni said Friday. “I started at Central Missouri, Division II. Not a lot of people know about it so just kind of a shout out to small schools all over. Transferring to Kansas really helped. It allowed people to see me on a higher stage, Power Five.”

Puni offered a message to KU fans on Friday after getting drafted.

“I just want to say thank you, first of all, to Kansas, everything you guys have done for me, the support, the staff the football team,” Puni said in a video that the Kansas football program posted on its X social-media account. “Just finish it off by saying 49ers, can’t wait to get there. ‘Cali’ (California) it’s a beautiful spot. Let’s go 49ers. Come on.”

KU coach Lance Leipold had his own post Friday night: “Congratulations (Puni)!” Leipold said on X. “We’re very proud of you and excited to watch you begin your NFL career with the 49ers!”