If you were surprised the 49ers took an offensive tackle, Mike McGlinchey, with their top pick in the draft, you weren't alone: McGlinchey was caught off guard, too.
The Notre Dame tackle met with 49ers officials on March 1 during the scouting combine, but that was the last time he heard from the team. San Francisco had 30 formal visits with prospects in Santa Clara between then and Thursday and worked out countless other college players. McGlinchey wasn't one of them.
"No, I had no idea," McGlinchey said by phone Thursday from a restaurant filled with 150 family and friends in Richboro, Pa., outside of Philadelphia. "It's definitely a shock. But I'm absolutely thrilled to be part of the San Francisco 49ers organization, and my family and I couldn't be happier."
In the run-up to the draft, most figured the 49ers would take a defensive player with their top pick for the sixth straight season. After all, they had needs at pass rusher, cornerback and – with Reuben Foster's legal issues hanging over the team – inside linebacker.
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Finding an offensive tackle, however, was logical considering how difficult they are to find and because the 49ers don't plan on having another top-10 pick in the near future. That, taken together with McGlinchey's game film and the impressive interview the 49ers had with him at the combine, convinced the 49ers he was their target.
The 49ers were fielding trade offers when their pick was approaching. But general manager John Lynch said he and Kyle Shanahan decided that if McGlinchey, 23, were available at pick No. 9 – a question since his position coach is now with the Chicago Bears, who had the eighth selection – the 49ers wouldn't move out of the slot.
"There are some people who command a room, who own a room," he said. "... He’s got a special presence to him. He’s real, he’s authentic. And he’s a badass. And we like that."
There also are questions about the position in the future.
San Francisco's starter on the left side, Joe Staley, turns 34 in August and is signed for only two more seasons. Right tackle Trent Brown, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, is entering the final year of his rookie contract and the 49ers have been reluctant to ink him to a contract extension.
Asked if the 49ers are considering trading Brown, Lynch and Shanahan first seemed to hedge before Lynch said, "You know, you never say never. But right now we're pleased to have great competition at that spot."
Lynch noted that during a Week 8 game in Philadelphia last year, the team had to play without Staley, Brown and backup tackle Garry Gilliam after a flurry of injuries in that contest and in the game prior. That left an undrafted rookie who was best at guard, Erik Magnuson, playing tackle.
Lynch said he didn't want to be in that situation again.
"It's a helpless feeling," he said. "They don't make a lot of (good tackles). The ones that are out there are signed. And that was something Kyle and I talked about at the end of last year, adding strength to that position. We had an avenue to do that, and we're very pleased that we have."
Another reason why McGlinchey makes sense for San Francisco wears No. 10.
The 49ers signed quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a five-year, $137.5 million deal in February, and protecting the quarterback – and their investment – is a top priority. The 49ers brought in two expensive free agents, center Weston Richburg and running back Jerick McKinnon, in March to support Garoppolo.
On Thursday they showed their commitment to the quarterback with draft capital.
McGlinchey was widely considered the top tackle in the draft, and Lynch noted that about a week before the draft both McGlinchey and Kolton Miller, who ended up going to the Raiders at pick No. 15, had plenty of draft buzz.
Standing 6-foot-7 and with 34-inch arms, McGlinchey has the size and the reach the team wants at the position, and he battled some of he best pass rushers in the nation – including No. 5 overall pick Bradley Chubb – while at Notre Dame. McGlinchey played his first two seasons there on the right side and the last two at left tackle.
Shanahan said McGlinchey and Gilliam would play right tackle this spring while Brown recovers from his labrum surgery. In training camp, the plan is to throw Brown into the competition.
"When Trent gets back here in training camp, I think it will be a heck of a battle," Shanahan said. "I think it will be a very good problem for the 49ers to have."
McGlinchey was a two-time team captain at Notre Dame, and his leadership skills and bearing appealed to a 49ers team that knows it will not have Staley to anchor the offensive line for too many more seasons.
Until recently, however, McGlinchey was perhaps best known as being Matt Ryan's first cousin. The Atlanta Falcons quarterback spent two seasons under Shanahan, who helped bring them to the cusp of a Super Bowl title a little more than a year ago.
"My cousin Matt has said nothing but great things about Kyle," McGlinchey said. "And I'm really excited to get to work with him."
Did Shanahan consult with Ryan before settling on McGlinchey? No, he said, he and Lynch wanted to keep their interest in the tackle as quiet as possible.
"I didn't trust Matt to keep it a secret," he said with a smile.