2020 NFL Draft profile: Tristan Wirfs could solidify 49ers' future


Editor's note: NBC Sports Bay Area will preview the NFL Draft with a look at the 49ers’ top needs, profiles of prospects that might fit their needs, along with some hidden gems. In this installment, we profile Iowa offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs.

While no 49ers fan wants to think about it, the reality is that at some point, in the not so distant future, left tackle Joe Staley is going to retire

Insert Iowa offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs, who could be an instant contributor while also helping solidify the 49ers' future with a second Hawkeye product on their offense.

Wirfs has been a multi-sport athlete since his youth, participating in everything from wrestling to track and field to swimming to baseball. To say he is athletic is an understatement. His performance at the NFL Scouting Combine is just partial proof. 

Wirfs tested at the top of his position group, setting a record for offensive lineman in the vertical jump (36.5 inches) and tying the record for the broad jump (121 inches). He is the only true freshman to start at either tackle position for Kirk Ferentz during his 21 seasons as head coach for the Hawkeyes. 

49ers star George Kittle's blocking effort and ability has a foundation that was built by Ferentz during the First-Team All-Pro's time at Iowa. Ferentz spent much of his career in the offensive line room before becoming a head coach. For him, being able to block and pass protect is a requirement, not an option. 

While the 49ers front office remains confident that Staley, a six-time Pro Bowler, will return for his 14th season with the club, drafting Wirfs with the No. 13 overall pick might be a wise choice. 

If Staley does indeed return, Wirfs still could immediately contribute as an upgrade at guard. If the veteran left tackle decides to retire, the team will have locked down one of the most important pieces in protecting Jimmy Garoppolo, their franchise quarterback. 

According to private offensive line evaluator and coach Duke Manyweather, who has worked with the likes of Seattle Seahawks guard D.J. Fluker and former Raiders tackle Donald Penn, Wirfs might even be best served by starting out his NFL career at guard.  

“Tristan Wirfs is very intriguing because you turn on his tape, he has good tape at Iowa,” Manyweather told NBC Sports Bay Area. “He tested out of the world, but his tape still shows that he has some issues at pass protection with his range. 

“Just playing at the top-end range in space and pass protection, especially redirecting to the inside moves. To me, his tape is good, but to me it said All-Pro, special type of guard. 

“But when he went out and tested the way he did, the way people are going to place weight and value on those tests, they are going to say everything that we’ve seen as far as his testing suggested, that he has the athleticism to play tackle.”

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Manyweather gave player comparisons of Washington guard Brandon Scherff, Pittsburgh Steelers guard David DeCastro and Indianapolis Colts guard Quenton Nelson for Wirfs. His belief is that while all are very capable tackles, they are better on the interior of the offensive line. Manyweather added that in comparison to previous draft classes, the top options available this year are better than he has seen in quite some time, including Wirfs. 

Taking an offensive lineman with the No. 13 overall pick of the NFL draft isn’t the splashiest move for the 49ers, but it might be the wisest. 

[RELATED: 49ers, Raiders make trades in latest NFL mock draft]

NFL draft profile: Tristan Wirfs

Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 275 pounds
College: Iowa
Career stats: Played in 35 games in three seasons at Iowa, named Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year

Combine measurables
40-yard dash: 4.85 seconds
Vertical jump: 36.5 inches (NFL Combine record for offensive linemen) 
Broad jump: 121 inches (tied NFL Combine record for offensive linemen)
20-yard shuttle: 4.68 seconds
Bench press: 24 reps
Three cone drill: 7.65 seconds

What experts are saying
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN: "He is a right tackle who played two games at left tackle and did a pretty good job. I don’t have Wirfs as the top tackle, but I think for Arizona, it would be a good fit.”
Todd McShay, ESPN: "It was one of the best combines you will ever see from an offensive lineman. He's not a finisher yet, but he's technically sound and he's really good in a zone-blocking scheme, and he's good in pass pro as well.”
Josh Norris, NBC Sports: The Iowa blocker needs coaching, as his balance wavers in every game that I watched - surprising for a player with an athletic profile in the 99th percentile.”
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Media: “[Wirfs] has a chance to be an All-Pro guard. He can play tackle in the NFL, but he can be an elite guard.”
Lance Zierlein, NFL Media: Right tackle with elite body type and freaky testing potential w Rho might fall victim to elevated expectations based upon traits and Iowa pedigree. He has tremendous core strength and moves smoothly, over-sets and isn't the explosive drive-blocker former Iowa star tackle Brandon Scherff was.”

Draft projection: First round (top 15)

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