Justin Skule did not play a snap at guard during his four-year career at Vanderbilt, but he will be willing to go wherever on the offensive line the 49ers decide to send him.
“Whatever position I have to play to help the team, I’m willing to do,” said Skule, whom the 49ers selected in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft with the No. 183 overall pick.
Skule (6-foot-6, 318 pounds) was drafted as a tackle. He started the final 40 games of his college career, and regularly went up against top competition in the loaded SEC.
“I felt like he won at a high rate,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said after the club selected Skule. “It wasn't always beautiful, pretty, but just kind of a scrapper who at the end of the play was on his guy and won his leverage at a very high rate.
“When you find those guys, you look at the level of competition. Well, his level of competition was as good as it gets in college football.”
As a senior, Skule allowed only one sack in 473 pass-blocking snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. That sack – a sack-strip surrendered to Kentucky’s Josh Allen – ended Vanderbilt’s hopes of a late-game comeback. Skule managed to hold his own against Allen, whom he considered the best pass-rusher he faced, for most of the game.
“My mindset is every play you have to be ready to go,” Skule said. “Every week you’re getting a really good player, so every play, you got to come ready to play. If you take a play off, it could be a crucial part of the game.”
The 49ers were the first team to speak with Skule at the East-West Shrine Game, he said. Skule was not among the 57 offensive linemen invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. Offensive line coach John Benton and Lynch called to speak with Skule in the days leading up to the draft.
“(He’s) maybe not the prototypical tackle that will go early in the draft like you see a lot,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “So you look at the end, who has a chance to make it in this league and the game is not too big for him? He has the ability to make it, and to me he's got as good of a mindset on what's inside of him as anybody out there.”
Skule is expected to initially compete against Shon Coleman for the role of the swing tackle, serving as the backup to both Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey. Skule said he is familiar with both of the 49ers’ starting offensive tackles.
“Those are both really good players that I know I can learn a lot from and have played a lot of good football,” Skule said. “So I’m excited to get to work with them.”