Former Stanford offensive guard Joshua Garnett was selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the 28th pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft on Thursday, becoming the 22nd first-round pick in Cardinal history.
The 49ers traded picks with the Kansas City Chiefs to move back up into the first round and select Garnett after having selected Oregon defensive lineman DeForest Buckner with the seventh overall pick earlier in the round. Garnett joins former Tunnel Workers David DeCastro and Andrus Peat as Stanford’s last three first-round picks dating back to 2012.
“It’s definitely great to know [the 49ers] believed in me like that,” Garnett told the San Jose Mercury News on Thursday evening. “I’ve got to put in work to prove them right [that] they made the right decision.”
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Garnett will look to make an immediate impact for the depleted 49ers, who lost former guards Mike Iupati and Alex Boone to free agency in the past two offseasons. He will likely have the opportunity to compete for a starting job opposite fellow guard Zane Beadles, who joined San Francisco from the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this offseason.
The ties between Garnett and the 49ers’ organization have long been apparent, as first-year head coach Chip Kelly attended Stanford’s Pro Day in March and recruited the Washington native while he was the head coach at the University of Oregon, Stanford’s archrival in the Pac-12 North.
“I have personal knowledge of [Garnett], just from going against him [while at Oregon],” Kelly said. “We thought he was the best interior run-blocker in the draft… He’s a big, physical player that can bend really well for a big guy.”
Garnett’s father, Scott Garnett, played in the league as a nose tackle and also enjoyed a brief stint in San Francisco. Josh’s interest in the 49ers was clear, as he attended the organization’s Pro Day earlier this month, an event usually reserved for lesser-known local players hoping to make their way onto an NFL team’s radar.
Garnett was a standout in his four years on The Farm after joining the program in 2012 as part of a loaded recruiting class that featured linemen such as Peat, Kyle Murphy and Graham Shuler. He earned his first start midway through the season against Washington State, becoming the first true freshman to start on the Cardinal offensive line since 2000. He would go on to play in all 55 games of his career.
Garnetts’s collegiate career culminated when he was awarded the Morris Trophy (Pac-12’s best lineman) and the Outland Trophy (nation’s best lineman) this season, the first time a Stanford player has won the latter in school history. He routinely blew open running lanes for AP Player of the Year Christian McCaffrey this season en route to earning unanimous All-American honors.
Stanford head coach David Shaw happened to be on set as an NFL Network analyst when Garnett’s pick was announced.
“He’s one of the best physical run-blockers you’re going to see come out of college in the last couple years, and I can’t wait to watch [him] play on Sundays,” said an emotional Shaw.
Garnett is a human biology major who hopes to become a surgeon after his NFL career.
“When you throw the intangibles in there, he’s a kid that wants to go to med school; a senior that is going to graduate in June with a degree from Stanford,” Kelly said. “I think you check off all the boxes when you look at him.
“He’s an extremely driven person in everything he does, whether it’s academics or athletics, and that’s what attracts you to people like Josh. No matter what the challenges are ahead of him, he’s going to attack them with everything he has.”
The remaining six rounds of the draft will take place over the next two days, with several more Cardinal players hoping to hear their names called.
Contact Neel Ramachandran at [email protected].