San Francisco 49ers

49ers go big on brains, and other thoughts about the 2018 draft class

The grade is in for 49ers' draft pick Mike McGlinchey

With the ninth pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the 49ers selected tackle Mike McGlinchey out of Notre Dame. Matt Barrows breaks down the pick and grades the newest addition to the team.
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With the ninth pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the 49ers selected tackle Mike McGlinchey out of Notre Dame. Matt Barrows breaks down the pick and grades the newest addition to the team.

The biggest critique of 49ers' first-round draft pick Mike McGlinchey: He's a good right tackle who replaces another good right tackle in Trent Brown, whom the 49ers traded less than 24 hours upon selecting McGlinchey.

That is, San Francisco didn't get better with McGlinchey; they merely are treading water.

The difference – a significant difference – between the two appears to be in run blocking. McGlinchey does it very well and was Pro Football Focus' top tackle in the draft in that category. Brown, whose massive size made him an imposing obstacle for pass rushers, was not nearly as efficient in the run game, especially in coach Kyle Shanahan's zone-running scheme that requires his offensive lineman to be good on the hoof.

Shanahan hinted at that dynamic during the scouting combine when he was discussing the shrinking size of NFL offensive linemen. He said heavy, immovable blockers can be excellent in pass protection. "But it's very tough to run the ball with them, in my opinion," he said.

The team's left tackle, Joe Staley, is one of the NFL's best at run blocking. The 49ers' intent was to have someone just as good at right tackle. McGlinchey, of course, also is younger than Brown and is more affordable, considering that Brown is entering the final year of his rookie deal.

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John Lynch seemed to suppress a celebration when he saw that the 49ers had topped the Raiders in a coin toss in Indianapolis that determined who would pick first between them in the opening round.

Thursday's first round showed why the flip was such a big deal. While the 49ers took McGlinchey at No. 9, the Raiders traded down and landed the second-best tackle in the draft, UCLA's Kolton Miller. That suggests that had the order been reversed, McGlinchey may have been in silver and black today.

“Last year you saw a team move up one spot, right?" Lynch said after the coin toss. "It’s a big deal. One spot is a big deal.”

Perhaps a thank-you note is being composed this week: Dear Rod Woodson, I can't thank you enough …

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Pass rusher was widely thought to be the 49ers' biggest need heading into the draft, and the team didn't draft any, at least none who are potential "Leo" defensive ends.

Why not? One reason is that there simply weren't very many good ones in the draft. Only two — Bradley Chubb (pick No. 5) and Marcus Davenport (No. 14) — went in the first round, and only one more — Harold Landry (No. 41) — was taken before the 49ers traded up to take receiver Dante Pettis (No. 44) in the second round.

The 49ers will lean on a crew that includes Solomon Thomas, Cassius Marsh, Eli Harold and free-agent addition Jeremiah Attaochu this season.

Shanahan suggested that at some point it didn't make sense to add a pass-rushing defensive end since the 49ers couldn't imagine those players beating out those already on the roster.

"You don't just get guys," he said. "If you get them, someone else has to get cut, and we've got a pretty good group."

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The 49ers reeled in a lot of smart guys in this draft. McGlinchey scored a 37 on his Wonderlic intelligence test, the top score for a draft-able offensive lineman. To put that in perspective, Aaron Rodgers scored a 35 and Alex Smith got a 40, two of the more impressive scores in recent years.

The 12-minute test has 50 questions that get progressively harder and most takers – would-be NFL players and regular folks – don't come close to finishing.

And McGlinchey isn't the only smarty in the 49ers' draft class. Both Pettis and linebacker Fred Warner scored 32, which were among the top of their position groups.

"These are some smart football players," Lynch said. "These are some smart guys that can play football. They could moonlight over at Google."

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The 49ers have left the door open to re-sign safety Eric Reid, who remains a free agent. As it stands now, Jaquiski Tartt, who recently received a two-year contract extension, is the team's starter at strong safety. Behind him are a pair of promising youngsters, Chanceller James, who went undrafted a year ago, and Marcell Harris, the team's sixth-round pick Saturday.

James is recovering from an ACL tear suffered last year, while Harris' senior season at Florida was wiped out by an Achilles tear. Both are expected back for training camp but won't take part in spring practices. That seems to leave a significant opening for Reid, though he's unlikely to get either a starting spot or the long-term deal he is seeking.

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Last year, running back Matt Breida led a long list of undrafted rookies who not only made the team but who played significant snaps. There aren't nearly as many openings and opportunities this year, but three players who went undrafted – North Texas running back Jeffery Wilson, Florida cornerback Tarvarus McFadden and San Diego tight end Ross Dwelley – seem to have a good shot.

All either worked out for or visited with the 49ers in the run-up to the draft. Dwelley, who played at Oak Ridge High in El Dorado Hills, will compete against another local product, Cole Hikutini of Pleasant Grove High, to be the third tight end on the squad. The full list of undrafted rookies poised to sign with the team is here.

Watch the Wolfpack weight room go crazy as N.C. State senior defensive tackle Kentavius Street squats a massive 700 pounds in a video posted to YouTube on July 20, 2017. The 49ers picked Street in the fourth round of the NFL draft on April 28, 2018.

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