Almost everyone who follows the NFL agrees that the 49ers most pressing need is upgrading an offensive line that hasn't adequately protected their quarterbacks, and didn't provide the thumpingly dominant run blocking that Mike Singletary desperately desires .
The 49ers are set with their center in Eric Heitmann and at one tackle spot with Joe Staley. They hope Chilo Rachal will stop relying on his brute strength and athleticism, work on his technique to fulfill his potential, and take his spot on a potentially dominant line. That leaves two holes: the tackle spot opposite Staley (which could be either side) and left guard.
Their top priority, every expert would tell you, is filling the tackle spot. Sure, some are under the illusion that the 49ers really need to draft a new quarterback, but without a right tackle, even Joe Montana would struggle a bit.
So should the 49ers draft or trade for their next offensive tackle?
With the NFL Draft about a week away, every final mock draft from the gurus at ESPN, SI, SportingNews, CBSSports, and FoxSports have at least the top three offensive tackles going before the 49ers draft in the lucky 13 spot.
Most of these self-proclaimed experts expect the guy who will be left for the 49ers to consider is Rutgers tackle Anthony Davis , who stands 6'5” and weighs at least 330 pounds.
Some of the mock drafts have Davis going before the 49ers—to Buffalo or Oakland—and some have him falling out of the first round altogether. The knocks on Davis have been that he's less than motivated, has trouble making weight and doesn't sufficiently love or care about football. Some NFL executives were reportedly put off by Davis' no-show at Rutgers' pro day , which has forced Davis to run a gauntlet of private demonstrations for teams.
That said, some think he has the tools to become a Pro Bowl tackle. The 49ers are confident that they have the infrastructure in place (with head coach Mike Singletary, new offensive line coach Mike Solari, and assistant coach Ray Brown) to light the requisite fire under any under-performing offensive lineman. Would that confidence lead the 49ers to draft a guy who has been compared to the one the they passed up last year (Michael Oher) to draft Michael Crabtree?
Which brings us to the 49ers' next option: why use your first pick on a spot you can fill just as effectively with your third?
Jared Gaither is 6'9” and weighs 340lbs . He's been described as already being a top-12 NFL left tackle . He's young (24), with 28 starts already on his resume. Why is he reportedly available for a second round pick? Michael Oher . The Ravens have both guys and simply aren't willing to pay two players franchise-tackle money.
Like Anthony Davis, Gaither has been criticized for having a less than stellar work ethic. But if the 49ers are confident they can sufficiently motivate someone like Anthony Davis, the same should hold true for Gaither.
While Davis might have more upside, Gaither is less of a gamble, as he is ready to play at a high level today and similarly has some upside of his own. What's more, filling this urgent need with a second-round pick would allow the Niners to use one of their two first-round picks to fill that left guard spot with the draft's top guard—Idaho's Mike Iupati and still have the 13th overall pick for someone like cornerback Joe Haden (or quarterback Jimmy Clausen or running back CJ Spiller, if you're into that sort of thinking).
In my opinion, the dropoff from Davis to Gaither is negligible and Gaither might turn out to be better in the long run. So why wouldn't the 49ers have a go at acquiring him for the 49th overall pick and get the most value out of their draft picks?
We've got mere days to go until the 49ers are on the clock. I, for one, can't wait.
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