With the opening of 49ers training camp just two weeks away, it’s uncertain who will start at center.
Daniel Kilgore is the returner and probable No. 1, but former Baltimore Raven Jeremy Zuttah — a Pro Bowler in 2016 — could supplant him before opening day.
When the 49ers acquired Zuttah this offseason in a trade with the Ravens, general manager John Lynch said it was to upgrade the middle of the team’s offensive line — no matter who wins the job.
“Kyle (Shanahan) and I are firm believers that competition brings out the best in everyone,” said Lynch at the time. “We also believe that you can never have enough good offensive linemen, and Jeremy has certainly proven to be a very talented player, having earned a Pro Bowl selection last season.”
Some NFL observers believe the move to bring in Zuttah could be an under-the-radar move that pays huge dividends in 2017.
When Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report this week compiled his list of the most overlooked additions of this offseason, he put Zuttah at No. 4.
Wrote Sobleski: “The 31-year-old blocker is exactly the type of veteran Shanahan needs to stabilize the offensive front. Zuttah graded better than any lineman on the 49ers roster last season, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s also a reliable and experienced option, having started 73 of his last 80 games.”
Zuttah, too, has played in an offensive scheme similar to the one now used by Shanahan. And, if Zuttah indeed becomes the starter, than could allow Kilgore to move to a guard spot or give the 49ers more depth.
Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com notes that Zuttah has had some problems handling larger nose tackles, but on the whole has been solid. Last season, he was rated the 13th-best center in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.