Niners positional draft analysis: OGs

The 49ers have put a lot of attention into their situation at offensive guard after signing heralded free-agent Larry Allen and spending two second-round selections on the position in the past two drafts. Now it could be one of the team's strongest areas in 2006, but that won't prevent the Niners from considering OG prospects in the draft. Here's a look at how SF shapes up at OG entering draft weekend, along with an in-depth individual examination of the top OGs available in the college lottery.

OFFENSIVE GUARDS ON 49ERS ROSTER: Larry Allen, Justin Smiley, David Baas (also can play center), Eric Heitmann (also can play center), Adam Snyder (OT is primary position), Ben Sopieski, Tony Wragge (NFL Europe).

49ERS FIVE-YEAR REPORT: Total OGs drafted – 4. Still on roster – 4 (Smiley, Baas, Heitmann, Snyder). First-round picks – None. Highest pick – Baas (No. 33 overall).

2006 POSITIONAL DRAFT NEED: The 49ers appear virtually set at guard, one of the few positions on the team where they can honestly say that. Smiley, Baas and Heitmann were developing into a quality trio of starters by the end of the season (when Heitmann moved to center and Baas took over at right guard), but now two of them could be pushed to the bench by the arrival of eight-time All-Pro Allen, already one of the most celebrated offensive linemen in NFL history. That should create tremendous competition between Smiley, Baas and Heitmann for the starting spot opposite Allen. If veteran Jerry Newberry can come back at center as the team hopes, the 49ers will have two very good interior linemen of starting quality as their top two backups along the line. Snyder started one game at guard last year, but the team would like his future to be at tackle. If the Niners see a prospect they like at a position of high value in the draft, they may pounce on him to add to the competition and depth if Newberry can't return to the mix. But the team likes Wragge's promise as a backup and brought in Sopieski during the offseason, so the 49ers may focus their draft selections on other positions.

POSITION OVERVIEW: The guard crop of the Class of 2006 has a pair of potential late first-round picks in Davin Joseph and Max Jean-Gilles. But guards are routinely devalued on draft day because just as many scouts and coaches believe the mid-round offensive tackles can be easily converted to guards and, with the skill sets they learned playing the tackle positions, it could bode better for them at the NFL level than career guards. As a result, even some of the top guards will drop into the middle rounds. If this year holds up to the history, guards won't start popping off the board until the third or fourth rounds, where value picks will still be available, and that's where the 49ers could become interested.

THE CREAM OF THE CROP

Davin Joseph, Oklahoma, 6-2¾, 311: Fourth-year senior…A state high school wrestling champion in Florida…Recruited to play defensive line, he made the switch to the O-line during his freshman season…Started 25 games at right guard as a sophomore and junior and moved to left tackle as a senior, starting 12 games…Has long arms (35 inches) and huge hands (11¼ inches from thumb to pinky)…Plays with good leverage…Almost never loses a one-on-one battle…Has good lateral movement and can pull…Gets to the linebacker level quickly…Showed the versatility and skill to play tackle…Impressed teams with his maturity and intelligence at the Combine…Is not as mean as scouts like to see offensive linemen…Needs to work on blitz pickup…Ran a 5.09 40 at the Combine with 24 reps of 225 pounds, a 32-inch vertical jump and a 9-3 broad jump.
Projection: Had a very strong week at the Senior Bowl after being moved back to his natural guard position and more than held his own. His size and skill should translate immediately to the NFL. He should be an immediate starter and could go late in the first round.

Max Jean-Gilles, Georgia, 6-3¾, 343: Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who began his college career at left tackle…Has missed times in several games because of severe problems with cramps and dehydration…Huge player who has long arms and uses his hands extremely well…Plays with good balance and rarely gets moved back…Has good upper body strength and can bench press 500 pounds…A mauler who can eliminate a defender if he gets his hands on him…A little on the slow side, he needs to work in a confined area and has problems pulling or blocking at the second level…Needs work on his pass-blocking technique at the next level…Weight has gone up and down over his career…Wears down during games…Hasn't given a consistent effort, and some scouts have tagged him as lazy...Ran a 5.48 40 at the Combine, with 31 reps, a 24½ inch vertical jump and a 7-11 broad jump.
Projection: A massive minivan of a man, he has prototype size for the NFL. He needs some modifications to his game, but will have a long NFL career, and if hooked up with coaches that can get the most out of him, potentially an All-Pro career. His downsides are correctable, which should see him more than likely go off the board somewhere in the early portion of round two.

THE NEXT LEVEL

Tatsui "Deuce" Lutui, USC, 6-3½, 330: Fourth-year senior who originally signed to play at Utah, but didn't meet academic standards…He spent one year at Mesa (Ariz.) Community College and another at Snow Junior College in Utah before enrolling at USC…Started 13 games at right tackle as a junior while Winston Justice sat out a suspension and, when Justice came back last year, Lutui moved back to left guard and started every game in 2005…Married with a son…Has wide body and good hands to lock on to defensive tackles…Solid in pass protection…Can neutralize most big DTs and nose tackles…Excellent lower body strength to anchor…Had a strong week at the Senior Bowl…Has sloppy technique on lead blocking and struggles at the second level of the defense…Ideally should be 10-15 pounds lighter…Plays a little too high and lets defenders get him off balance…Ran a 5.30 40 at the Combine with 26 reps of 225 pounds with a 32-inch vertical jump and a 8-6 broad jump.
Projection: Another in a long line of USC players that will be drafted, if he can control his weight, he has the potential for a long NFL career. He likely will go in the second round, but may still be on the board early in the third round.

Charles Spencer, Pittsburgh, 6-4¾, 342: Fifth-year senior who played tight end in high school and spent his first two seasons as a part-time defensive tackle…A two-year starter who played left guard as a junior and left tackle as a senior…Has good speed for a man his size and gets to the second level of the defense quickly…Has a good anchor in pass protection…Good athleticism…Uses long arms well…Plays with a mean streak coaches like…A very raw prospect with just two years of O-line experience…Has had nagging shoulder injuries that have limited his effectiveness…Doesn't have ideal lower body strength…Doesn't have strong hand punch despite good upper body strength…Ran a 5.28 40 at the Combine with 30 reps, a 27½ inch vertical jump and a 8-3 broad jump.
Projection: Spencer had a very good week at the Senior Bowl and impressed some scouts, but his lack of tangible experience on the offensive line makes him a project that will likely remain on the board until somewhere in the third round.

Rob Sims, Ohio State, 6-2¾, 307: Fourth-year senior…His father Mickey played in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns…Became a starter midway through his true freshman season and played left guard as a freshman and sophomore, left tackle as a junior and moved back to guard…Hard-nosed…Has the versatility to play right tackle in a pinch in the NFL…A finisher who doesn't let defenders get away once he locks on to them…Good upper body strength…Has a good initial punch that stops defensive tackles in their tracks…Has short arms and is undersized by NFL standards…Doesn't keep himself in top condition…Has trouble with speed rushers…Plays a little too high at times…Has had weight issues in the past and doesn't commit to the weight room…Ran a 5.25 40 and did 27 reps with 225 pounds, but didn't jump at the Combine.
Projection: Sims is a versatile backup type. His ability to play guard or tackle will help his draft stock, but his non-commitment to doing the little things needed to be a top college player in preparation for the pros could drop him to the end of Day One – if not farther.

Kevin Boothe, Cornell, 6-3¾, 316: Fifth-year senior who came to Cornell as a redshirt freshman who tipped the cattle scales at 370 pounds…A four-year starter who played right guard in 2002-03, moved to right tackle in 2004 to protect his left-handed QB and moved to left tackle as a senior…Four-time All-Ivy League selection…Has surgery on his right ankle as a freshman and broke both of his hands in separate injuries as a sophomore and played with casts on both hands…Has very big hands and long arms…Has good lower body strength and pushes people around…Has a strong hand punch…Finishes his blocks and doesn't stop until he hears a whistle…Smart on and off the field…Injury history dating back to high school will be a red flag…Doesn't have a chiseled body and doesn't have the athleticism to play tackle in the pros…Hasn't played against much top competition…Struggles at the second level trying to block linebackers or safeties…Ran a 5.36 40 at the Combine with 25 reps, a 31½ inch vertical jump, a 8-2 broad jump and a very impressive Wonderlic score of 37.
Projection: Boothe was dominant at his level of play, but the Ivy League doesn't produce a lot of NFL players. Even Matt Birk stayed on the board until the sixth round in 1998, so it won't come as any surprise if Boothe is still on the board when the first day of the draft concludes.

THE BEST OF THE REST

Mark Setterstrom, Minnesota, 6-3¾, 314: Fourth-year senior whose brother Chad plays for the Saints…Four-year starter who finished his career starting all 50 of his team's games…Likes to make immediate contact with defenders…Durability is a big asset…A willing blocker who played on one of the best running offenses in the country the last three years…Keeps fighting until the play is over…Doesn't have great upper body strength – his 19 reps at the Combine were among the lowest total of any guard that tested…Is viewed as undersized with short arms and doesn't have the body type that will allow him to add 20 pounds of bulk…Struggles against bull rushers and gets beaten badly at times…Ran a 5.38 40 at the Combine with 19 reps, a 26½ inch vertical jump and a 8-4 broad jump.
Projection: He impressed coaches at the Senior Bowl with his athletic ability, but he isn't viewed as a guard for the same kind of run offense he had in college when he moves to the pros. A project with potential and valuable experience, but his downsides likely will drop him into the fifth-round range.

Adam Stenavich, Michigan, 6-4¼, 309: Fifth-year senior who became a starter late in his freshman season…Started all of his team's regular-season games at left tackle the last three years…Didn't start in the Rose Bowl following the 2004 season after being arrested for an altercation with employees and police at a night club…Has good body mass and bulk strength…Has strong upper body and delivers a good punch…Good at blitz pickup at a tackle…Doesn't have the size to be a NFL left tackle and will have to switch to either right tackle or guards – positions at which he has no experience…Doesn't have great lower-body strength and gets beaten by strong, big linemen…Has trouble with speed rushers…Ran a 5.30 40 at the Combine with 24 reps of 225 pounds, a 24½ inch vertical jump and a 7-9 broad jump.
Projection: His experience at tackle with be viewed as a positive, but he looks to be a long-term project that will likely be taken by somebody with an established veteran starting guard somewhere in the middle of Day Two.

Jahri Evans, Bloomsburg (Pa.), 6-4½, 316: Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter at right tackle…Has had multiple serious injuries – a broken left tibia that needed three pins and a screw to be inserted in his leg and broken right fibula required a plate to be implanted and eight screws…Has prototype size and wingspan…Experience at tackle will help his draft stock…Likes to maul speed rushers and beat them down…Has the agility to be an effective blocker at the linebacker level, but doesn't have the best technique outside of close quarters…Very good lower body strength…Pushes open holes in the running game…Was dominant at his position, but the jump from Division II to the NFL is enormous…Won't be big enough or strong enough to play tackle at the next level, but projects to be a solid guard candidate…Very raw…Ran a 5.25 40 at the Combine with 20 reps, a 27-inch vertical jump and a 7-11 broad jump.
Projection: The combination of being from a small school with sub-par competition and being asked to move inside where he doesn't have tangible playing experience makes Evans a big project that may never realize expectations. But he has good intangibles, which will have him coming off the board in the later rounds.

Fred Matua, USC, 6-2½, 301: Fourth-year junior…Three-year starter at right guard…Has had several serious injuries, including a broken right leg in high school, knee surgery in 2002 and sports hernia surgery in 2003…Decided to leave early for financial reasons – his mother is battling cancer and he needs to help his family…Has good strength…Had two uncles that played D-1 college and pro football…Is good in space pulling on sweeps…Doesn't let defenders get into his body in pass protection…Has some part-time experience at center…Doesn't have ideal size and struggles with power rushing defensive linemen…Injuries are a big concern…Doesn't have a strong physique and has sub-standard lower-body strength…Ran a 5.06 40 at the Combine with 28 reps, a 30-inch vertical jump and a 7-9 broad jump.
Projection: He would have been better served staying for his senior season, but left to help his family. As it stands, he will be drafted, but likely not until well into the second day.

OTHERS TO WATCH

Will Allen, Texas, 6-5, 306
Chris Kuper, North Dakota, 6-4½, 301
Jason Murphy, Virginia Tech, 6-2, 304
Rob Smith, Tennessee, 6-2¾, 311
Isaac Sowells, Indiana, 6-3, 324
Tre' Stallings, Mississippi, 6-3, 315
Dan Stevenson, Notre Dame, 6-5, 300
Tony Tella, Miami, 6-4, 307

John Holler of VikingUpdate.com contributed to this report


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