With the draft now over, we know a few things about the 49ers offensive line. Joe Staley, of course, will be the starting left tackle, Daniel Kilgore will be the center and veteran Zane Beadles and first-round pick Joshua Garnett will likely be the starting guards.
But right tackle is still a question mark, and so is the cast of characters ticketed to play backup roles on a unit that was one of the team’s weakest links in 2015.
Trent Brown finished last season as the starter at right tackle and will go into training camp as the top candidate to start. The seventh-round pick from Florida in 2015 improved greatly during his first NFL season, dropping weight, gaining strength and playing a physical style with his large (6-foot-8), 300-plus-pound body.
Veteran Erik Pears was the starter at right tackle for most of 2015, but his performance was shaky. His spot on the roster for the coming season is in doubt.
But the Niners will go into spring camp with a couple of rookies to challenge Brown and holdover backups.
In the fifth round of the recently completed draft, general manager Trent Baalke selected a pair of Southeastern Conference tackles back to back in Georgia’s John Theus and Mississippi’s Fahn Cooper.
Both excelled at tackle in college, but also have played guard, which should give San Francisco some flexibility.
Theus is 6-foot-6 and 303 pounds; Cooper is 6-foot-5 and 306 pounds.
The NFL.com scouting report on Theus is that he was a consistently high performer at Georgia but needs to get stronger as a pro.
“Theus’ athleticism jumps out on film, so it isn’t surprising Chip Kelly added him,” wrote Mark Dulgerian of NFL.com. “Kelly values technically sound, mobile linemen and Theus checks those boxes. His strength deficiencies were exposed at the Senior Bowl so he’ll need some grooming before he’s ready to see the field.”
Cooper, on the other hand, comes with the reputation of being more of a tough run blocker whose future may be as an interior blocker.
Wrote Dulgerian: “Kelly likes to run the ball and Cooper has some ‘mauler’ to him. He was a reliable replacement at LT (left tackle) in games (Laremy) Tunsil missed, but he may struggle to mirror NFL edge speed.”
Adding Theus and Cooper to the offensive line mix is something Baalke believes was necessary to help bring up the entire level of offensive line play.
“You’re always trying to make every (position) room as competitive as you can,” said Baalke, according to Chris Biderman of USA Today. “So any chance you get to upgrade a room, you take it because there’s nothing better than competition to bring the best out. And if you’ve got the right people in the rooms, they want jobs, they want to compete. So bring it on. That’s the way we look at it.”