The rumors started swirling on Tuesday – that Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey was a name rising up draft boards. Some experts, including NFL Network's Peter Schrager, floated the idea that he could be a fit to the San Francisco 49ers with the ninth-overall pick.
The masses still assumed the 49ers would select from a bevy of talented defensive prospects at the top of the draft. And yet here we are. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan opted for the top offensive tackle on their board and made McGlinchey the newest member of the 49ers. Lynch told reporters that McGlinchey continued to grow on them as the pre-draft process wore on.
"This was a guy, and last week, we decided that if he's there at nine, he's the guy we're taking," Lynch said Thursday night. "We had other players that we had to prepare and we probably had a list of four."
Lynch hinted that the 49ers fielded a few trade offers with UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen still on the board. But the 49ers were steadfast that they had to have McGlinchey. The benefit of garnering a few extra picks wasn't worth the risk of missing out on the former Irish offensive lineman.
The Oakland Raiders ended up trading out of the 10th pick back to 15 before taking UCLA tackle Kolton Miller. This is pure conjecture, but if Oakland was in the market for an offensive lineman, they very likely were hoping that McGlinchey would fall to them. When San Francisco scooped him up, they opted to move back. To take this train of thought one layer further, if there is some validity to this theory, how important was that coin toss back at the NFL Scouting Combine? It's very possible that Rod Woodson, who flipped the coin, ensured that the 49ers would land their top player while costing the Raiders theirs.
McGlinchey has starting experience at both tackle spots and figures to be Joe Staley's heir apparent. As for where he fits into the 2018 iteration of the 49ers, Shanahan said he'll begin at right tackle.
"He can play either tackle," Shanahan said. "He can start in this league as a right tackle, left tackle, swing tackle. I'm sure he can help us at guard, too."
The 49ers didn't have much contact with McGlinchey in the months leading up to the draft. The team had an official 15-minute interview with him at the Combine and was sold immediately. From that point, San Francisco avoided all communication with McGlinchey in order to avoid blowing their cover.
Shanahan and Lynch have spoken at nauseam about the need to get the right people in the locker room. McGlinchey, who stands at 6-foot-8, is a monster of an offensive lineman. But he also checked all the boxes from a character standpoint.
"He was a guy that came in and just kind of owned the room and everyone felt it," Lynch said. "It wasn't just me. Kyle felt that way. Our coaches that were in the room felt that way, our scouts in the room. He's got a special presence to him. He's real. He's authentic and he's a badass and we like that."
Here's one final takeaway on the evening. Many on social media have been critical of the pick because tackle wasn't a position of immediate need. When you have Joe Staley and Trent Brown, why take a tackle and ignore a position of greater need like pass rusher? For starters, I think that the McGlinchey pick tells you all you need to know about how the 49ers ranked prospects like Marcus Davenport and Harold Landry.
Secondly, tackle is a position that comes at a similar premium to edge rusher. If you have an opportunity to draft someone who projects to be a decade-long NFL starter, you've got to pull the trigger. San Francisco clearly believes it was presented with that very opportunity. The 49ers plan to take a step forward in 2018. That means they don't plan to draft in the top 10 in 2019. The fact of the matter is that elite tackles are rarely found in the teens.
Look, I'm not telling you how to feel about the pick. You can love it, hate it, or be somewhere in the middle. That's your prerogative. But when you let it marinate, the decision to take McGlinchey seems far less random than it did at first blush.
Giddy up, everyone. We've still got two more days of this madness.