It would be difficult for anyone to replace Joe Staley and live up to the high level of performance he provided for the 49ers for 13 seasons. But if there's anyone who can do it, it's the man who already has been tasked with the job.
Trent Williams might have sat out the entirety of this past season, but his reputation as arguably the top offensive lineman in the NFL has not dissipated much. He is physically imposing, tremendously skilled and, though you have to rewind a bit, the tape doesn't lie.
Trading for Williams was considered one of the top moves of the NFL offseason, and aside from the fact that he fills a major need, it's easy to see why. When it comes to all-around performance by offensive tackles over the last four seasons, he is in very elite company.
Since 2016, he is one of only two offensive tackles to rank in the top-10 in Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking and run-blocking grades in the same season.
Lewan, the Tennessee Titans' standout tackle, has made three Pro Bowls since entering the league in 2014, and he was one of the best all-around performers at his position this past season. His PFF pass-blocking grade (83.5) and run-blocking grade (80.7) ranked ninth and eighth, respectively, among all qualified offensive tackles.
Those are great numbers, no question. But they also show how dominant Williams was in 2016.
PFF ranked Williams as the best offensive tackle in the entire league in 2016 with an overall grade of 92.8. That was the fifth-highest single-season grade posted by an offensive tackle since 2006. And, when spliced further into pass-blocking and run-blocking grades, Williams' 2016 performance is shown to be far superior to Lewan's in 2019. That season, Williams posted individual pass-blocking and run-blocking grades of 91.4 and 88.4, respectively. He was the third-most efficient pass-blocker among qualified tackles, and only one other player posted a superior run-blocking grade.
If there has been any knock against Williams throughout his career, it's that he has been injury-prone, having not played a full season since 2013. That said, the extended rest his body got this past season surely can only help, and he doesn't appear to have lost a step based on offseason workouts.
Clearly, when he is on the field, there aren't many tackles -- if any -- better than him.
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