When the 49ers moved up into the bottom of the first round in the 2016 NFL draft to select Stanford guard Joshua Garnett, they raved about his abilities as a physical run blocker.
Garnett had received the top run-blocking grade among all guards in that draft by the analytic website Pro Football Focus. Wrote PFF: “Potential to be among the league’s best run blockers in the right scheme.”
But Garnett had an up-and-down rookie season with the 49ers, who moved him to right guard from the left side, where he had played at Stanford his final season. He didn’t earn a spot in the starting lineup until Week 5.
He flashed his potential at times, but struggled in blocking for the run and protecting the quarterback in passing situations. He allowed more than 30 total quarterback pressures, among the worst numbers among NFL guards, according to Pro Football Focus.
But as Garnett prepares for Year 2 of his pro career, it’s possible the new coaching staff could see a much better Garnett.
This week, Garnett’s former head coach at Stanford, David Shaw, told Joe Fann of 49ers.com he believes Garnett is set for a much stronger season.
“I think Josh is in a great place physically, mentally and emotionally,” Shaw told Fann. “I think he’s a good fit for what the offense is going to become with coach (Kyle) Shanahan. I’m excited. I don’t think it’s going to be too far down the road where Josh is one of those guys who we’re talking about going to the Pro Bowl.”
Shaw, too, saw Garnett struggle as a rookie, saying he looked good some times and poor at others, but believed by the end of the season “he looked like an NFL lineman.” Going into the pro game requires an adjustment period, said Shaw.
Now, with that learning experience an invaluable teacher for his former standout, Shaw is convinced Garnett will become the blocker the 49ers believed in when they drafted him.
“Joshua is growing,” said Shaw. “He’s got all the tools and he’s got the chance to be really good for a long time.”