In 2010, the 49ers spent two first-round draft picks on offensive linemen. Anthony Davis was taken at number eleven, and Mike Iupati was selected six picks later at seventeen. They both were named immediate starters, with Iupati beating David Baas and Davis beating Adam Snyder. For the earlier pick, Davis, it was a rocky year, but he showed a lot - just not with any consistency. For Iupati, it was a great year essentially from start to finish.
Iupati remains the only player currently on the 49ers roster with his place essentially guaranteed. Short of moving over to right guard for lack of a better option, Iupati is starting at left guard in 2011. The team has all the confidence in the world when it comes to him. But beyond that, everything else is questionable.
Alex Boone played well at left tackle against the Saints, much better than Joe Staley did, but he was on the second team. Boone is now lining up at right tackle at times in practice (just one of many new configurations) and it's part of what Jim Harbaugh said is required of his guys: they need to be able to flip over to cover the other side. So Boone is just showing his versatility, but could he be competing?
You bet he is.
Jim Harbaugh wants the best five guys in their best five spots. Davis' draft status a year ago is a non-issue for Harbaugh, if the new-and-improved Boone shows something, then that's that. Stayley isn't safe on the left side from Boone, either. But if he were to lose his spot to Boone, you can bet Staley would be in the running for the right side. Is a radical change like this likely? Probably not, but Harbaugh is sincere when he says the best five will be out there.
At the center position, one has to feel like Jonathan Goodwin will be that guy, even if Adam Snyder is still the "starter." Goodwin has been a Pro Bowler, and just needs to get acclimated into the system. Fumbling two snaps to Alex Smith on Wednesday certainly doesn't help his case, but he's probably set. One reason that supports that is the fact that Adam Snyder is getting some work at right guard.
This has been the case for awhile now. Snyder has played everywhere on the line, and his best games came last year at right guard, starting in place of Chilo Rachal. It's not necessarily that Mike Singletary picked the worst guy for the job in Rachal, but it did appear that he had a little bias, because Snyder pretty clearly looked better. So the right guard position is the one that's most wide open.
Either way, when the Raiders come to town, look for these guys to play multiple positions.