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Can the 49ers expect two new starters from the draft?

It's very possible that the 49ers can get two new starters along the offensive line in next month's draft.

It sounds crazy to say, but it's true. This isn't a pie-in-the-sky idea, either. And it's not based on my incredible ability to scout offensive lineman and identify a late round steal (of which I clearly have none). Rather, it's based on what the NFL has done as a whole in recent drafts.

I came across this chart on X the other day from @salibdaniel1, and it really jumped out at me:

Thanks to the rookie wage scale, the ten highest salaries at a position much more closely reflect the ten best players at their position in the sport - particularly when looking at positions other than quarterback. NFL GMs don't hand out big money second contracts to guys that aren't good. If they're paying a center top-ten money, it's because he's earned it. This is a very good sign for a team that could use upgrades at guard, center, and tackle. This chart leads me to believe they could realistically get those upgrades next month.

Clearly, history shows that if you want a tackle, you've got to take one early. Whether you're looking on the left or the right side, the best tackles mostly go on day one. Luckily, the 49ers finally have a first round pick, and 2024 is supposedly a particularly good year for tackles. It's possible they can stay at 31 and still get a very good player. Even if all hell breaks loose and the Niners suddenly need to move up, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have not hesitated to trade other assets to get the player they want. If tackle is a priority for them, they can add one this year.

The interesting part of this graph is further down the line, however. Out of all the positions on the field, center is at the very bottom. The ten highest paid centers in the league were taken, on average, in the third round. That means even if the 49ers used some of their other picks this year to move higher in round one for a tackle they loved, history shows that they could still end up with a great center later in the draft - and not just through sheer luck.

The 49ers have had a lot of success finding quality players in the later rounds of the NFL Draft. Obviously that's a tremendous skill to have in your back pocket. When you combine that skill with the fact that the league as a whole has found high-end good centers later in the draft, it's very possible that San Francisco ends up with two new starters next month.

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