That the 49ers traded back into the first round wasn’t much of a surprise. That they did so by giving up their first-round pick in next year’s draft as well as a fourth rounder this year – well, it’s about the most shocking thing Mike Nolan has done in three years on draft day.
Even Joe Staley, the Central Michigan tackle the 49ers picked 28th overall, was caught off guard.
"After the Senior Bowl (offensive line coach) George Warhop came up to me and said, 'You did a great job at the Senior Bowl. We love you.' And that was about it," said Staley who thought the Giants, Chiefs or Ravens would be calling.
Nolan explained later that the team had 20 players with first-round grades and hoped to get two of them with their first- and second-round picks. When Staley was the only one of those 20 left, the 49ers decided to go up and get him.
"The one thing I’ve said since I’ve been here is that we’re always going to strengthen the offensive line," Nolan said. "That will never change as long as I’m here."
When Warhop called Staley Saturday, he told him to work on his right-hand stance. That’s a signal that Staley will be expected to compete with incumbent right tackle Kwame Harris, whose pass-protection problems are well chronicled. Harris, drafted 26th overall in 2003, is in the final year of his contract and the 49ers have made little effort to re-sign him.
Staley likely will get his first repetitions at left tackle during the team’s upcoming minicamp. The starter at the position, Jonas Jennings, is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery but should be back for training camp in late July.
Staley, meanwhile, went to Central Michigan as a 230-pond tight end. The coaching staff, however, wanted athletic offensive linemen and encouraged Staley to gain weight. Three and a half years later, he weighs 305 pounds but figures his 6-6 frame can carry as much as 315 pounds.