Brandon Fusco didn’t come out of some college football powerhouse program. When the Vikings drafted him in the sixth round of the 2011 draft, they plucked him out of Slippery Rock.
But the 6-foot-4, 302-pound guard has made a fine living in the NFL, playing seven seasons – the first six with Minnesota – and has started 80 of 83 games. Sixteen of those starts came in 2017 in his first season with the 49ers.
Now Fusco can be a free agent, and the analytic website Pro Football Focus suggests the 49ers would be wise to re-sign him. Though the team must also decide whether to keep more high-profile players such as running back Carlos Hyde and safety Eric Reid, David Neumann of Pro Football Focus says Fusco’s play was solid in 2017 and he adds value to the 49ers offense. He was the team’s highest-graded guard last season.
“Like many members of the 49ers offense, Fusco was better over the second half of the season, particularly in pass protection where he allowed just eight quarterback pressures over his final eight games after allowing 21 through his first eight," Neumann wrote. "Admittedly, it’s unlikely San Francisco views Fusco as a long-term solution – he’s still a bit inconsistent from week to week and has issues with top competition.
“However, without a clear difference-maker among San Francisco’s pending free-agent class, retaining their top guard, a position in need of all the capable bodies they can find, is an easy win.”
Certainly, the 49ers will have more competition at guard going into the 2018 offseason. Former first-round pick Joshua Garnett is returning from an injury and will likely grab one starting spot, and the team could use a high pick on a guard or get a veteran to start through free agency. In that case, however, Fusco would be a great backup and provide depth.
Wrote Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, about Fusco’s prospects for returning: “He played through injury to start 16 games. He’s not the prototypical guard for San Francisco’s offense, but he proved dependable last season and eventually could be added to the mix of players competing at right guard.”