If there’s any NFL team that takes in Atonio Mafi, including the San Francisco 49ers, just know the powerful blocker from UCLA isn’t planning to accept a learning curve behind the sidelines right away in the NFL.
He sent out this early stirring warning to whoever his future NFL team will be via Justin Melo of The Draft Network on Monday, March 27.
“I’m coming in to take somebody’s job. That’s exactly what I’m going to do,” he concluded in his interview with Melo. “I can’t wait to prove myself to the coaching staff.”
The massive and feisty 6-foot-4, 355-pounder will likely win over NFL franchises with that type of mindset. And one of the teams he spoke with during his draft process? He had an in-person meeting with the 49ers.
Mafi Open to Any Scheme, but Comes From 49ers-Style Attack
Mafi gave off the indicator light to teams that he won’t take long to compete right away. And that’s regardless if he’s in an offense that’s more pass blocking heavy or a ground-oriented attack like what the 49ers like to hit defenses with under Kyle Shanahan.
“I’ll play in any scheme my NFL team wants me to play in,” Mafi said.
But here’s why he can be ideal for the 49ers if brought over: “We did run a lot of gap concepts at UCLA though. I’m definitely comfortable playing in that system. We ran some zone-based concepts as well.”
He was planting defenders either face down to the ground or with the back of the uniform touching the grass in that zone-style offense former 49ers head coach Chip Kelly ran in Westwood, California.
Who’s Job Would he Really Threaten if he Returns to the Bay?
Say the 49ers do draft him, it officially brings a Bay Area native back home as Mafi grew up in Shoreview, California located in the San Mateo region.
And if he’s inside the 49ers locker room, who’s job would he really threaten?
He manned left guard for the Bruins. But Aaron Banks put together a stellar sophomore NFL season there and has won over the Niners with his work ethic. Banks, a former high school tackle, has likely become the blindside guard of the future. The opposite side, though, may be the area that becomes the heated competition area.
The 49ers have already lost Daniel Brunskill and Mike McGlinchey to the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos, respectively. While Mafi manned the left interior of the UCLA line, he has a past background as a tackle from his Serra High School days in San Mateo. He could challenge for that now open right tackle spot.
Then there’s right guard, which saw 2022 rookie Spencer Burford get some action there on 833 total snaps including playoffs per Pro Football Focus. Burford, though, was given a 51.8 PFF grade and had his struggles in pass protection. Given his recent background as a fiery guard, Mafi could be in a competition at RG with the leaner, athletic Burford if brought over.
He’s already a 49ers draft target having met with the franchise. And along with threatening someone’s playing time, Mafi also wants to be someone who learns on the fly around his new personnel.
“You’re going to draft a guy that’s ready to soak a ton of knowledge up. I’m coming into the program with the right mindset. My attitude is that of a hard worker. I’m trying to get on the field and stay on the field,” Mafi told Melo. “I’m not going to sit around and wait for my turn. I’m not going to concede anything to the veterans. I want to compete for a starting job from the jump. I’m going to put the work in. I want to help the team win.”