The 49ers didn’t have to look far for a solution to their porous offensive line, as the team elected to trade back into the first round to select OG Joshua Garnett out of Stanford with the No. 28 overall pick on Thursday night.
San Francisco gave up a hefty haul for the local first-rounder, trading in their second, fourth(No. 105) and sixth round(No. 178) picks in exchange for the 28th selection, and a seventh round pick from Kansas City.
But their reward may prove to be vital. After giving up the third most sacks in the league in 2015- with 53- they receive a much-needed guard whose senior year accolades reads like a laundry list of achievements.
Garnett was the Outland and Morris Trophy Award winner in 2015, while being the ninth unanimous All-American in Stanford’s history. He was also named to numerous All-American first team’s from organizations around the country.
His physicality in the running game was instrumental to the Cardinal’s notching 223.7-yards per game on the ground in 2015. The 6-foot-5, 321 pound Washington native used a unique blend of power and athleticism to be one of the draft’s premiere run-blockers.
Oh, and he has future plans to attend med school.
It may seem like a stretch to reach for Garnett with No. 28, but given who was coming up in the draft, the 49ers had almost no choice but to reach for “their” man.
Teams like the Seattle Seahawks in the first round, and the Titans, Browns, Chargers and Ravens in the second all are in desperate need of help along the offensive line, and posed a threat for the 49ers to land the local kid.
And with the 49ers line-who looked like a porous mess last year- only getting worse with the departure of guard Alex Boone to the Vikings, Garnett’s services are in high demand in Santa Clara.
Despite the cost, the 49ers solidified the trenches on both sides of the ball in the first round, and gave head coach Chip Kelly a key cog to installing his new offense that looks to be a run-first approach.
“We thought he was the best interior run blocker in the draft…We’re gonna be really good at running the football. So to add somebody like Josh, he’s just a big physical player that can bend really well for a big guy.”
It also didn’t hurt his draft stock that a potential first-rounder showed up to the 49ers local pro day.
It’s uncommon for a highly-touted player to show up to a team’s local day, but Garnett’s enthusiasm and willingness to prove himself to his area team stuck in the mind of general manager Trent Baalke.
“He had already done his pro day, he had already done his work at the combine and he comes here on the local pro day and he works again. That just told us a little bit more about the young man.”
Garnett’s willingness to go the extra mile for San Francisco may stem from his families history of being a part of the 49ers faithful. Garnett was not shy during Stanford’s pro day in expressing his desire to follow his father, Scott Garnett‘s, footsteps in playing for the 49ers.
When the 22-year old product announced to his family who had selected him, his family took the news fairly well.
“My mom definitely started crying. Dad had to hold her up from fainting. She was excited, and everyone is really excited. So I’m excited that the family is able to be excited and have me be on a team that everyone has loved for so long, and has supported. It just makes it even more sweeter.”
The question now will be how fast, and where, Garnett will be able to make his impact on the offensive unit. Throughout most of his time at Stanford, Garnett had played primarily on the left side of the line. The same side as newly signed guard Zane Beadles.
Beadles had mentioned earlier in the day that he was willing to tinker with playing on both sides of the line, making a switch to right guard a possibility. But his seniority in the NFL may prove to reign supreme.
Another hurdle for Garnett will be in making a transition from David Shaw’s pro-style offense at Stanford, to the zone blocking scheme run by Kelly.
But for the apparently highly-motivated and intelligent Garnett, the task is just one more problem he looks to solve.
“It’s going to be an adjustment,obviously, for anybody, no matter what team you’re going to. And the speed of the game, you’re in the NFL now. But regardless you have to work your craft, you’re a professional now. And whatever coach wants me to do, whatever coach [Flaherty] wants me to do, I’m gonna do it to the best of my ability. I’m gonna work day and night, 24/7 until I can perfect it.”
The 49ers now have eight draft picks remaining. Their first pick comes in the third round, at No. 68 overall during tomorrow’s proceedings.