The news of Joe Staley contemplating retirement has spread like wildfire throughout the 49ers community. The former first-round pick has been a staple on the 49ers offense through ups and downs, and ups again. Coming off of a Super Bowl appearance, Staley's future is now uncertain, leaving many to ask, "Who will be the future left tackle for the 49ers?" and "Should that player be selected during the 2020 draft?"
But what if the replacement the 49ers are looking for is currently on the roster?
San Diego native Daniel Brunskill was an undrafted rookie free agent out of San Diego State. The Atlanta Falcons took a chance on Brunskill only to stash him on the practice squad in two consecutive seasons. After he ran out of P-squad eligibility, Brunskill found himself out of the NFL, that is before the AAF League came to fruition. His stint with the San Diego Fleet was short-lived due to the new league folding, but his play there caught the attention of at least one coach named Kyle Shanahan.
Shortly before the start of the 2019 offseason program, San Francisco agreed to a one-year deal with Brunskill. Now, I've signed one of those contracts, and from experience, I'll be the first to tell you, they don't mean much. But Brunskill made the most out of opportunity and made the squad.
Brunskill started off as the seventh offensive lineman behind the starters and rookie offensive tackle Justin Skule, yet found himself starting seven games, seeing action at both guard and tackle. At offensive tackle, Brunskill was better as a pass protector. According to Pro Football Focus, he had the highest pass-blocking grade of any 49ers offensive lineman. In fact, no 49ers offensive lineman had a better PFF grade than Brunskill. Where Brunskill's grade fell off was at guard, the biggest hole on the 49ers' offense. Grading out at a 55.5 overall mainly due to having to "attempt" to block Aaron Donald largely affected his grade.
All-in-all there's a ton of potential with Daniel Brunskill. I don't think it's a coincidence he played so well and was the 49ers' highest-graded offensive lineman. Brunskill's ability to play left tackle should not be overlooked. The 49ers already have Joe Staley's replacement.
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