49ers

49ers Joe Staley among Pro Football Focus' best left tackles this generation

49ers Joe Staley among Pro Football Focus' best left tackles this generation

49ers left tackle Joe Staley recently received a well-deserved two-year extension through 2021. This was designed to make sure the 34-year-old will spend the rest of his career as a member of the team.

Good news for the 49ers. 

And what's even better is knowing how he's being viewed as one of the NFL's best tackles by Pro Football Focus.

Cameron Pezet wrote in April about the guy who will enter his 13th season with the 49ers, and called him "one of their highest-graded offensive players." 

"For starters, Staley’s career pass-blocking grade of 86.6 ranks 12th in the PFF era (2006-present) among left tackles with at least 100 career snaps," Pezet wrote. "However, it’s been run-blocking where Staley has truly excelled, ranking second in the PFF era with a career run-block grade of 92.4.

"He also owns the third-highest single-season run-block grade in PFF history by a left tackle, accumulating a mark of 92.4 over 19 games (including postseason) in 2012, and on a game-by-game basis, Staley’s name appears twice when looking at the top-15 graded games by a left tackle."

As far as examining Staley from year to year, Pezet noticed a fascinating turn in 2012. Don't get us wrong, his numbers prior to the season were good -- well, they were "respectable," but it was the Jim Harbaugh era where everything changed.

That's when Pezet writes he went from good to great.

[RELATED: How Staley, 49ers came together on extension]

"Staley broke out in the 2012 season by leading all tackles with a career-high 92.4 regular-season grade. He was particularly dominant in the run game that year, bulldozing his way to a 93.3 run-blocking grade that ranked first amongst all offensive lineman in the league. Staley hasn’t looked back since, as he now ranks first in run-block grading (93.0) and ninth in pass-block grading (89.5) among all left tackles with at least 1000 snaps played from 2012 to 2018.

"During that span, Staley’s overall grade of 94.2 ranks second only to former Cleveland Browns left tackle, Joe Thomas."

Joe freaking Thomas.

Staley's consistency is something that has separated him from the rest, and he's done it for a dozen years. As PFF writes, Staley entering this 13th season is when he will remain "as important as ever."

NFL Draft 2020: How agents are dealing with many coronavirus obstacles

NFL Draft 2020: How agents are dealing with many coronavirus obstacles

The 2020 NFL Draft might favor players who were able to able to attend the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine, due to pro days and in-person meetings being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. But some agents believe teams have all the information they need to proceed on schedule. 

Leigh Steinberg and Chris Cabott, from Steinberg Sports and Entertainment, spoke to NBC Sports Bay Area about how their preparation for the draft has been consistent to what they’ve done in the past. Their agency represents Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, among other draft hopefuls. 

Both long-time agents believe that players who attended an All-Star event or the combine have an advantage, but that always has been the case. As in every draft, there will be players that exceed expectations and those that don’t live up to them. 

“When I first started in the industry in 1975 with Steve Bartkowski, there were no pro days, no team meetings, no combine,” Steinberg said. “If you look at statistics from players then, to those selected in 2005, the players in 1975 were more successful and productive. 

“Teams obviously believe that the more information they have, the better, but at some point it’s enough. I believe they have enough information to make educated and prudent choices.”

Brett Tessler, who represents 49ers running back Raheem Mostert, believes players who weren’t able to attend or weren’t invited to the combine are at a disadvantage across the board. An off the radar player won’t have the chance to catch a scout or coach’s eye at a local pro day and jump up a team’s draft board. 

“For most non-combine guys, it's going to put everybody at an equal disadvantage,” Tessler told NBC Sports Bay Area. “Teams will rely more on the spring testing numbers that they got prior to this season.

“But, the biggest disadvantage for non-combine guys trying to get drafted is the lack of being brought in for pre-draft visits where the medical staffs can do all the background work on these guys that they need to do.”

Just like everyone across the nation, players, agents and teams are taking advantage of video conferencing technology like Zoom and Skype for their 30 one-on-one pre-draft visits. This actually might be the one advantage for players who have grown up with video calls as the norm. 

[RELATED: Why Kentucky's Bowden is intriguing for Shanahan, 49ers]

As in the past, teams still have the ability to ask players schematic questions using a virtual chalkboard, and go over game film during video conferencing sessions. Cabott believes that this year, there also is one resource that could be more important than in previous pre-draft research. 

“Trainers,” Cabott said. “Those guys who were working with players, getting them ready for pro days will have information that will be important for teams. They can give projections, send videos of testing and have insight to a player’s work ethic.” 

NFL Draft 2020: Why Kentucky's Lynn Bowden could fit 49ers' offense

NFL Draft 2020: Why Kentucky's Lynn Bowden could fit 49ers' offense

When John Lynch assured 49ers fans that he and the rest of the front office still will be as prepared as ever for the 2020 NFL Draft despite the coronavirus pandemic, he did so in a video where he, of course, was grinding tape in the background. Lynch very might have been scouting the next offensive weapon for coach Kyle Shanahan.

It appears in the video that Lynch was watching tape of a University of Kentucky game. The Wildcats just so happened to have a do-it-all player who can be unleashed in Shanahan's offense. Lynn Bowden is the modern-day prospect every team is trying to get their hands on. 

The draft remains scheduled to begin on April 23, but the usual pre-draft meetings between teams and players have been wiped out due to the coronavirus. Well, kind of. 

Thanks to the power of technology, the 49ers still can meet with prospects and get to know them as more than just a player on film. The front office already had two FaceTime visits with Michigan State defensive lineman Kenny Willekes and TCU offensive lineman Cordel Iwuagwu, the prospects told Justin Melo of The Draft Wire. The Athletic's Matt Barrows reported Saturday that Bowden, who played quarterback and receiver at Kentucky, is on San Francisco's list of virtual interviews.

In Shanahan's first three seasons coaching the 49ers, he only has used two players other than quarterbacks to attempt a pass. Both came last season when Shanahan's complex offense truly began to take shape. Receiver Dante Pettis completed a 16-yard pass to running back Raheem Mostert in a Week 2 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, and fellow receiver Emmanuel Sanders hit Mostert with a 35-yard touchdown pass in a wild 48-46 Week 14 win against the New Orleans Saints. 

Now, just imagine if Shanahan had someone like Bowden. 

While Clemson's Isaiah Simmons can be labeled simply as "defense" for his versatility, Bowden should have OW next to his name for "offensive weapon." He was a receiver his first two-and-a-half years at Kentucky and had 745 receiving yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore. Then last season as a junior, he was asked to be the team's quarterback in their final eight games and dominated as a dual-threat QB. 

Bowden earned the Paul Hornung Award as the nation's most outstanding all-purpose player, as well as first-team Associated Press All-American all-purpose recognition. He rushed for 1,468 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, had 403 passing yards and three more scores and still led Kentucky in receiving yards with 348. To add the cherry on top, Bowden even helped returning punts and kickoffs. 

And with the ball in his hands, he's explosive.

At 5-foot-11 and 204 pounds, Bowden has speed, strength and great balance. He immediately can step in as the 49ers' version of a younger Taysom Hill. 

More importantly, Bowden fits in seamlessly to Shanahan's motion offense. Shanahan loves to use deception with play-action and multiple moving parts. This helped unleash Deebo Samuel as a ball-carrier throughout his rookie year. 

Shanahan can use Bowden on jet sweeps, reverses, play-action passes and even a wide receiver pass here and there. He's the perfect Swiss Army knife as football becomes more and more positionless. 

[RELATED: Should 49ers approach NFL draft as if Staley will not return?]

After their two first-round picks, the 49ers are back on the board twice in the fifth round, twice in the sixth and once in the seventh. Bowden likely will be available in the later rounds and easily can turn into a steal.

Whether it be as a receiver, ball-carrier, Wildcat QB or returner, the possibilities are endless with Bowden as a 49er in Shanahan's offense.