<
>

49ers' investment in line sets standard

The 49ers' draft should give them three of their own first-round draft choices on the offensive line.

No other team in the league figures to line up with as many of its own first-rounders on the offensive line this season. Seattle is the only other team with three of its own first-round offensive linemen on its roster, but that will change when Walter Jones announces his retirement, probably this week.

The Rams have first-round choices Jason Brown and Alex Barron, plus Rodger Saffold, the first player chosen in the second round of the 2010 draft. But Saffold wasn't a first-round choice and Barron might not fit into the Rams' long-term plans for the line.

All three 49ers first-rounders -- Joe Staley, Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati -- were drafted in 2007 or later. Not counting San Francisco, only the Ravens (Michael Oher, Ben Grubbs) and Browns (Alex Mack, Joe Thomas) have even two such players.

Seattle briefly had three of its own first-round offensive linemen on its roster in 2005, but center Chris Spencer never started in the same line as Steve Hutchinson and Jones.

49ers fans can expect to see Staley remain at left tackle, with Iupati working his way into the lineup at left guard and Davis taking over for Adam Snyder at right tackle. The 49ers will talk about players having to earn their jobs, but they did not draft Davis or Iupati to have them sit on the bench. Staley started all 16 games as a rookie after the 49ers made him the 28th overall choice in 2007.

The 49ers expect lots from new offensive line coach Mike Solari, so it's an upset if Davis and Iupati do not start in Week 1. With Seattle last season, Solari got second-rounder Max Unger into the lineup right away. Unger started 16 games.

The 49ers should have five of their own draft choices starting on the offensive line. Center Eric Heitmann was a seventh-round choice in 2002. Right guard Chilo Rachal was a second-round choice in 2008. Even the players Iupati and Davis could beat out -- David Baas and Snyder -- were 49ers draft choices.