The 49ers drafted tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati to provide immediate help along the offensive line. But will they be opening-day starters? Judging by recent history, each has better than a two-thirds chance.
In the five years between 2005 and 2009, NFL teams drafted 23 offensive linemen in the first round – 16 tackles, four guards and three centers. Of those 23, 16 were in the starting lineup in Week 1 of their rookie seasons. That’s about a 70-percent success rate.
And if either Davis or Iupati fails to start on opening day, it probably won’t take him long to crack the lineup. Of those seven rookies who watched from the sidelines in their first NFL game, four made their initial start by Week 6 that season. Only two first-round linemen in the past five years – Chicago tackle Chris Williams and Seattle center Chris Spencer – had to wait until Year 2 for a starting role.
Of the two Niners rookies, Iupati is generally seen as more NFL-ready than Davis, who was a bit inconsistent at Rutgers. Consider, though, that Davis was selected at overall pick No. 11. Seven O-linemen have gone 11 or higher in the past five years, and six were opening day starters (85.7 percent).
Bottom line: The bigger the bonus money, the more pressure there is to start an NFL rookie lineman. Davis and Iupati should command plenty of dollars. Unless one of them has a hard time grasping the 49ers’ offense or pro blocking techniques, expect both to start at Seattle on Sept. 12.
Here are the first-round rookie offensive linemen from 2005-09, with overall draft position and year/week of first NFL start:
T Jason Smith, Rams (2) 1/1
T Andre Smith, Bengals (6) 1/14
T Eugene Monroe, Jaguars (8) 1/1
C Alex Mack, Browns (21) 1/1
T Michael Oher, Ravens (23) 1/1
T Jake Long, Dolphins (1) 1/1
T Ryan Clady, Broncos (12) 1/1
T Chris Williams, Bears (14) 2/1
G Branden Albert, Chiefs (15) 1/1
T Gosder Cherilus, Lions (17) 1/3
T Jeff Otah, Panthers (19) 1/1
T Duane Brown, Texans (26) 1/1
T Joe Thomas, Browns (3) 1/1
T Levi Brown, Cardinals (5) 1/1
T Joe Staley, 49ers (28) 1/1
G Ben Grubbs, Ravens (29) 1/5
T D’Brickashaw Ferguson , Jets (4) 1/1
G Davin Joseph, Buccaneers (23) 1/6
C Nick Mangold, Jets (29) 1/1
T Jammal Brown, Saints (13) 1/1
T Alex Barron, Rams (19) 1/4
C Chris Spencer, Seahawks (26) 2/3
G Logan Mankins, Patriots (32) 1/1