The 49ers gave Tom Compton a one-year, $2.75 million contract this offseason to replace right guard Mike Person, whom they released. But Compton shouldn’t replace Person. The starting right guard should be the same player it should have been last season: Daniel Brunskill.
Here are three reasons why.
1. Brunskill is better than Person and Compton.
Brunskill proved this when he started the final two games of the regular season at right guard and outperformed Person, the veteran starter, who had a neck injury. Brunskill should have remained the starting right guard in the playoffs, but the 49ers gave the job back to Person even though he was injured, simply because he was the vet. Bad choice. Person struggled and was a big reason the 49ers crumbled in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.
Brunskill is 26, and he started seven games last season: One at left tackle, four at right tackle and two at right guard. And he played well at all three positions. As opposed to Compton, who’s 31, has started just 35 games in eight seasons and never has played well enough to hold a starting job at any position despite plenty of opportunities.
Compton has spent most of his career on the bench. Brunskill spent his first season out of college playing in the American Alliance of Football -- a now defunct professional football league. Meaning he got to play real games, not just practice.
“It goes back to live reps versus practice reps,” Brunskill said Thursday on a video conference. “It definitely helped me improve my game, taking a lot more live reps in games that are different than practice reps.”
Maybe it’s better to play in a minor league than sit on the bench in the big leagues.
2. Joe Staley thinks Brunskill is good.
A reporter recently asked Brunskill his favorite memory of Joe Staley.
Brunskill said Staley always encouraged him. “Multiple times after games, or even after practices early on, he would tell me, ‘Hey, you’re a good player, keep doing what you’re doing and things will work.’”
Staley wouldn’t just say that to any player -- if he said it, he meant it. And Staley was right. Brunskill is good. He seems like he could start at tackle, guard or center. He’s another undrafted-free-agent gem the 49ers have unearthed along with Nick Mullens, Ross Dwelley, Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida, Jeff Wilson Jr., Kendrick Bourne, Azeez Al-Shaair and Emmanuel Moseley. The list never ends.
3. Brunskill has found creative ways to work out during the pandemic.
Selfmade players like Brunskill don’t let anything get in their way -- even pandemics. They’re not talented enough to coast or take time off, so they work hard for a living.
This offseason, Brunskill has enlisted his sister and brother-in-law as honorary trainers during the quarantine.
“For my sister and brother in law, sometimes as offensive linemen, we’ll take medicine balls and work on pass drills. Someone can throw the medicine ball at you and you can practice your punching, because those have a little weight behind them. Of course we don’t have any bags, but I’ll have them hold the medicine ball and try to do other drills off of that. But they definitely have been very supportive and helped me the best they can.”
I’m sure Compton has found ways to train as well, but not every player has. Take Javon Kinlaw. He told Bay Area reporters on draft night that he has done nothing but jog this offseason because he can’t get on a field.
Kinlaw is a rookie first-round pick who doesn’t have to fight for his job just yet. He’ll learn what it takes to be a pro in due time. Brunskill already knows what it takes. That’s why he assembled his personal family trainers. He will come to training camp in terrific shape and beat out Compton for the right-guard job.