Niners take two OL in opening round
AP Sports Writer
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) – Mike Singletary’s offensive line received a major makeover in a matter of 30 minutes.
The San Francisco 49ers made sure they got their men, all right: first, Rutgers offensive tackle Anthony Davis at No. 11 in Thursday’s NFL draft, then fellow offensive lineman Mike Iupati out of Idaho six picks later.
Both will compete to be starters as rookies come training camp this summer, Davis at right tackle and Iupati at left guard.
“Do I expect them to start? Yes I do,” Singletary said. “We’re hoping that soon they can work their way in there. That’s why we brought them in here.”
The Niners pulled off a trade with the Denver Broncos to move up two spots and secure Davis, one of the top lineman prospects.
Davis had a good feeling about the 49ers from the moment he visited team headquarters earlier this month. He had dinner with Singletary, who went 8-8 last season in his first full year in charge and ended a franchise-worst stretch of six straight losing seasons.
“(It felt) a lot different. That’s why I was so big on the 49ers going through the process,” Davis said on a conference call. “But of course I had to keep it to myself. Great people, the whole staff, the team, a tight-knit group. I like what Singletary’s building over there. I can’t wait to be a part of it, win some games.”
Davis was joined by some 20 family members, along with former coaches and teammates in a private room at a New Jersey restaurant. Singletary called him with the news just before the pick was made.
“Best feeling in my life, man, best feeling ever,” Davis said.
San Francisco also traded its fourth-round pick, No. 113 overall, to the Broncos to move up and snare the 20-year-old Davis – an aggressive move by new personnel chief Trent Baalke. He took the reins for the draft after the abrupt departure of general manager Scot McCloughan last month.
“Trent and I just felt instead of just sitting there, twiddling our thumbs and hope that we got the No. 1 need that we had, we thought, you know what, let’s just take all of the excitement out of it and let’s move up,” Singletary said.
The 6-foot-5, 323-pound Davis has struggled with conditioning and thus with his weight, though Singletary isn’t sure the criticisms of Davis’ commitment to football have been all fair. Singletary prides himself in reading people, and does his homework, too. The coach spoke in-depth to three people about Davis.
And they learned plenty about one another over that dinner.
“Just sitting there looking at him, I just felt that we had a chance to touch on some things, maybe some misunderstandings, maybe some things that people don’t understand about him,” Singletary said. “Maybe some things that he wants to put behind him and move forward. And I told him about the things that we are doing here. There’s no ambiguity about what the 49ers are about. We were able to walk him around and look at who we are, the identity, that’s what we’re about, and did he like that? Was that something that would interest him? Was that something that would excite him, about being a part of something like that? He told me before he left – and he may be the kind of kid who told everybody that, but I didn’t feel that – he said, ‘Coach, I’ve been at a number of places and I really like what’s happening here.”‘
Davis isn’t going to let the skeptics slow him down at the next level. He knows there’s a lot of other stuff to worry about, like learning a thick playbook.
“Let’s see. I love this game, man, we’ll see,” Davis said. “Everybody with negative things to say, I don’t really pay attention to it. They see a guy that’s ready to work, ready to learn, ready to make himself the best tackle he can be.”
Davis and Iupati fill perhaps the team’s biggest offseason need as physical run-blockers. The Niners’ inconsistent offensive line has allowed an NFL-worst 150 sacks over the past three seasons. Running back Frank Gore and quarterback Alex Smith will be thrilled by the new additions.
Singletary described Iupati as a “devastating” blocker.
In Iupati, the 49ers acquired a prospect widely considered the top offensive guard in the draft. He is one of the most physically dominant guards coming out of college.
“I just come off the ball fast and physical, so I try to attack my opponents,” Iupati said. “I can play anything. I just need the repetitions. I know I played guard in college and in high school, but I know I can transition outside if they need me. Anywhere the coaches want me to play, I can play for them.”