The 49ers know what they’re getting in defensive lineman Quinton Dial.
They’re not expecting big sack totals or highlight-reel plays from the 6-foot-5, 318-pounder from the University of Alabama.
Dial is a big, strong space-eater in the middle of the defensive line who could prove to be an excellent extra piece, serving as backup in the 3-4 alignment or as an extra lineman in short-yardage situations.
He is the prototypical run-stuffing tackle, a man capable of holding his ground, tying up blockers and creating problems for an opponent’s ground game.
Dial, taken by the 49ers in the fifth round of the draft in April and signed to a four-year, $2.34 million contract, had toe surgery in January and wasn’t available to participate in the recent organized team activities. But it’s expected he’ll be ready to compete for a roster spot when training camp begins in July.
Dial didn’t even start for the Crimson Tide – which plays a 3-4 scheme like the 49ers’ -- but played a big role. As a senior he had 22 tackles, including five for a loss. As a junior – after transferring to Alabama from a two-year school – he had 24 tackles. In his two seasons at Alabama he had just 1½ sacks.
Mike Detellier, an NFL draft analyst and Southeastern Conference observer, told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle that Dial could fit in perfectly in San Francisco.
“He knows his role,” Detellier told Branch. “What you’ve got is a big man who is strong and his strength is his run-defense skills. His job was to stop the run and he did a terrific job doing that. He’s not going to give you a big pass rush, that’s not his game. He was the big plugger up front for Alabama.”
Another NFL draft analyst, Mike Mayock of the NFL Network, said before the draft that he is the “quintessential five-technique” player who is good against the run.
Detellier told Branch that at Alabama, the scheme was for the defensive linemen to plug up the gaps and allow the linebackers to make plays.
“Well guess what that looks like,” he said. “That’s what San Francisco does. They have their D-linemen stack things up and have their fantastic linebackers blow through the gap. That’s what Quinton does best.”
Dial could end up playing a role similar to multipurpose sub Ricky Jean Francois, who departed in free agency this offseason.
Dial told the Bay Area media after he was drafted that he played almost every defensive line position for the Crimson Tide, so he believes he’s versatile enough to work anywhere the team wants him.
But he knows what his strength is.
“I think I have a pretty good ability to stop the run,” he said. “As always, there’s no complete football player and you’re always going to have areas you need to work on. But I think I’m pretty good against the run.”
For the 49ers, that should be just fine.