SANTA CLARA (AP) — It took just two NFL seasons for Trent Brown to go from questionable prospect to a building block.
The 49ers tackle has earned praise for becoming one of the team’s brightest young players during an otherwise miserable season that featured the longest losing streak in franchise history.
“He’s a monster of a guy and I think he’s going to be a fantastic player as he continues to grow,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on a conference call. “I mean, he’s already a problem.”
Brown is a massive problem for opponents — literally. He’s listed at 6-foot-8 and 355 pounds.
Those traits normally lead to players being high draft picks, but questions about his work ethic and weight issues dropped the Florida alum to the seventh round.
“As he gains experience, I think he’ll be one of the really good players in the league,” Carroll said.
The 23-year-old will have his hands full this weekend when the Seahawks (9-5-1) travel to play San Francisco (2-13), which lost the past six matchups between the NFC West rivals.
Seattle has already clinched the division title, but needs a win to help lock up a first-round bye in the playoffs as the second seed.
Brown started the final two games of his rookie season before winning the full-time starting job in training camp last August.
He played well enough to unseat former first-round pick Anthony Davis, who started at right tackle for five seasons before retiring in 2015 because of concerns relating to a head injury.
Davis came back to the 49ers last summer after missing the season. He was moved to right guard when Chip Kelly and his staff determined Brown was one of the team’s five best linemen as the right tackle.
Davis wound up retiring again in September, following another head injury, solidifying Brown as the team’s starter.
During his ascent, Brown has received high praise from notable figures. Denver’s Von Miller, last season’s Super Bowl MVP, said Brown was already one of the better tackles in the NFL during joint practices in August — after Brown had just two starts.
The 49ers’ longest-tenured player Joe Staley, who plays left tackle, compared Brown to Ravens Hall of Fame lineman Jonathan Ogden.
“There’s more out there for me,” Brown said. “I’m pretty pleased with my performances this year, it being my first full season as a starter. Next year, I know even more what to be prepared for. I know how to take care of my body better. ... I feel like it will be a big year for me.”
Brown switched from the right side to the left last week while Staley missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury. It was the first time Brown played left tackle in the NFL.
He helped the 49ers get their second win of the season against the Rams 22-21.
“He’s a little bit rawer on the left side than he is the right side,” Kelly said. “That transition isn’t as easy I think maybe as some people think. He did a decent job against Los Angeles. We’ll see how the rest of the week goes with Joe if Trent goes back over or if Trent stays on the right side.”
Staley, 32, said he expects to play in the season finale, shifting Brown back to right tackle. The five-time Pro Bowler has kept a close eye on Brown from the sideline, helping him adjust to the nuances of the pro game.
Brown said his biggest area of improvement has come with his footwork as a run blocker. His long arms and athleticism have made him a quick study in pass protection.
Brown, nine years younger than Staley, said he’s thought about eventually becoming Staley’s long-term replacement. After all, Staley’s finishing his 10th season with San Francisco and is one of the few veterans on a young roster that will likely look drastically different in 2017.
“I think it all depends on when he’s ready to give (the left tackle spot) to me,” Brown said.
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