STEVEN CANNON/Associated Press
Thirty-five-year-old Jonathan Goodwin has finally come to the end of a three-year deal he signed back as a free agent in 2011.
At 6’3”, 318 pounds, Goodwin was no pushover, playing good football as the starting center for an offense that experienced a huge turnaround. They went from being a group of scrubs to a refocused and technically proficient squad.
And Goodwin was one of the notable add-ons, having won a Super Bowl already with the New Orleans Saints two years prior. It was a good signing.
But now, after 12 years of wear, and jammed between two titanic guards, he began to look like the frail part of the Niners offensive line. Interior pressure became a regular issue in 2013 and the unit’s ground productivity actually became more prevalent outside the tackles (via PFF), which was odd for this team.
It’s believed, and Goodwin’s professed, retirement may be in his future, via Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News.
That being the case, center is one of the top positions San Francisco is expected to take a close look at in the draft. And given their M.O., they will likely view it as an opportunity to upgrade their run-first offense.
Physically speaking, the 49ers will want a 6’3” or 6’4” 300-15-pounder that almost seems broader than he is tall. That big wall of a center. But with that size, the ability to slide also has to stand out. They’ll want someone with quick, meticulous footwork and good balance.
And they’re going to see a lot of players with this many tools, but consistency and high performance among multiple events will get them noticed. The 49ers need that total package right away. They’ll be able to gauge that by observing who looks automatic and never misses a beat.
San Francisco can’t afford to thrust someone into the lineup that is not well-built or sound enough to start.
They covet that callus and red-lining mean streak: dagger eyes, foaming at the mouth, mitts swollen and coarse. Ideally, the 49ers find it, and that brutish physique and nasty demeanor enhances an offense that loves to run it up the gut and lean on the ground game in the red zone.
A player at the combine with a quick get-off and a strong first punch may appeal to the 49ers. So you can trust your eyes when it comes to the center position, particularly when it comes to their physical presence and technique. But most of all, said player has to have it going on between the ears.
They need a smart, forward-thinking player with a high football IQ. Interviews will be key here.
A player that is both confident in his ability and his intellect—where he can read the defense, make appropriate calls, communicate what he sees and execute complex blitz pickups without fail—will have an opportunity to push his way high up San Francisco’s big board.
All in all, the 49ers will need someone they can plug in and play from day one.
Some guys that may jump out include Florida State’s Bryan Stork, Colorado State’s Weston Richburg, Arkansas’ Travis Swanson and Marcus Martin, an underclassman from the University of Southern California. They project to go anywhere between the second and fifth rounds.