Secret Superstar: Alex Boone
Our Secret Superstar series heads back to the Bay to take a look at the San Francisco 49ers, who last season represented the NFC in the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years.
While the spotlight on offense was on first-year starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick, it was the league’s best offensive line which played an integral role in booking the 49ers February trip to New Orleans. Four of the five starting lineman graded in the top three at their positions, while the unit as a whole finished at the top of the class in run blocking, paving the way for one of the league’s best rushing attacks. The line also proved to be worthy in protecting Kaepernick and previous starter Alex Smith, as the group finished with the seventh-highest grade pass blocking as well.
With its numbers far away the class of the league, it’s no surprise that the 49ers offensive line produced the team’s Secret Superstar in right guard Alex Boone.
Undrafted but Not Unforgotten
A four-year starter at Ohio State at left tackle, Boone was named second-team All-Big Ten his junior year in 2007 and first-team All-Big Ten in his senior year in 2008. He also appeared in two BCS National Championship Games while a Buckeye as well.
While on the field his credentials were impressive, off the field he struggled with alcohol issues, including a DUI shortly after his freshman season. In February 2009 he was arrested following a Super Bowl party where he was so intoxicated the police had to intervene.
Boone’s NFL stock plummeted following the 2009 incident, and despite all the accolades he went undrafted in April, and was later signed as a UDFA by the 49ers.
Paying His Dues
Boone was one of the final cuts in training camp in 2009, but after clearing waivers was signed to the 49ers practice squad, where he spent the entire season. Then head coach Mike Singletary took a liking to Boone and helped keep his focus on football and improving in the weight room. In 2010, he made the active roster but did not see any action until the season finale, where he played 18 snaps at left tackle.
In his third season, Boone saw action in every game but one as an extra tight end in Jim Harbaugh’s jumbo packages, and also came in for a banged up Anthony Davis at right tackle in Week 11, earning a +1.6 grade in 34 snaps.
Switch to Guard
Following the 2011 season, the 49ers decided not to offer Adam Snyder, the incumbent at right guard, a new contract and Snyder headed south to Arizona. Despite Boone being 6-foot-8, offensive coach Mike Solari in the offseason initially stunned Boone by telling him he was going to move to guard, a position he had never played before.
Boone easily beat out veteran Leonard Davis in training camp and won the right guard job for the 2012 season. Not only did Boone play well enough to keep his job, he was one of the top guards in the league, as his +22.9 regular season grade was second best among right guards and third best among all guards, trailing only Evan Mathis (+51.3) and Marshal Yanda (+24.2).
Boone was a force in the running game as his +18.6 run blocking grade was best among all right guards. He also ranked second among all guards by receiving a negative grade on only 4.7% of his run blocks. Boone also held his own in the passing game as he earned a +2.1 rating during the regular season, and his 20 QB pressures allowed tied him for 17th lowest out of 50 guards who played at least 400 passing snaps.
The move from Snyder, who ranked 75th out of 78 guards in 2011, to Boone in 2012 was unheralded at the time, but turned out to be a brilliant switch. Boone’s emergence as a top-flight guard solidified the 49ers offensive line, boosting it to its top ranking in 2012.
Boone seems to have put his personal issues behind him, and if he can maintain that stability off the field and improve his pass blocking on the field, he can be a Pro Bowl player for many years to come.
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