The 49ers have nothing against big offensive linemen.
In fact, coach Kyle Shanahan prefers offensive linemen who also possess great physical stature.
But the demands of athleticism Shanahan requires in his offense means it is difficult to find sizable players who also have the agility to thrive in the team’s zone-blocking scheme.
Veteran left tackle Trent Williams, whom the 49ers made the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league this offseason, has it all. Williams is large and can move like a man half his size.
The 49ers invested a second-round draft pick in Notre Dame guard Aaron Banks. They expect his combination of size and athleticism will be a good fit for the team’s offensive system. If Banks adapts as expected, he should open the season as the 49ers' starting right guard.
“We have a history of smaller offensive linemen,” 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel said. “But, really, we haven’t invested second-round draft picks in offensive linemen. We’d prefer everyone to be 400 pounds and 6-(foot-)10, if you could engineer that.”
Banks is 6-foot-5, 325 pounds. His athleticism was displayed during the pre-draft process when he registered a vertical jump of 31 inches. He also produced a more-than-respectable time of 7.73 seconds in the three-cone drill.
McDaniel said he does not believe the 49ers’ running game will sacrifice anything with Banks in the lineup.
“We do a lot of gap schemes and man schemes in our offense, but to say we’re changing anything, no,” McDaniel said. “We felt like he had a skill set that could thrive.”
“We thought he was a guy who was quick enough on the second level that he could attach to defenders. He had a lot of skills. We like that he’s big. He’s just going to have to run fast while being big. And we felt like he was a candidate to do that.”
After the 49ers selected North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall draft pick, the club came back with the No. 48 selection to grab someone to protect him and help create more big plays in the run game, too.
Banks, who grew up in the Bay Area, said on draft night that he is confident in his ability to thrive in any kind of blocking scheme -- even if his size would seem to suggest he is best-suited in a power game.
“It doesn't matter what scheme we're running,” Banks said. “Whatever the team wants me to weigh, whatever scheme we're running, I'm going to take that and run with it. They tell me to do something, I'm going to do it.
“We ran a lot of zone at Notre Dame. We ran outside zone, mid-zone, it doesn't matter. So, whatever you put, whatever you tell me to do, I'm going to do it.”