As the 2018 season devolves into a top-10 pick for the 49ers (San Francisco would pick first overall if the season ended today), it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2019 draft. Today we begin with a position that has been a top need for the 49ers defense since Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch took over the team, and really, long before that.
San Francisco could use an influx of talent at both the LEO and SAM edge positions. Luckily, this looks like a strong year for pass rushers. Here is an early preview of some candidates to fill those roles in the 2019 draft.
Nick Bosa, Ohio State | 6-3, 270
Nick Bosa thoughts…
Ability to use hands in concert w/ threatening ground/depth… Both Bosa brothers have a knack for never stopping feet in their rush w/ violent hands
Many good rushes that either hurried a throw or got beat to QB by a teammate. Not all about sack totals! pic.twitter.com/WphwkLLLOq
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) August 22, 2018
Nick Bosa is not only the top edge defender in the class, but he might be best prospect period and potential No. 1 overall pick in 2019. Bosa has a lot in common with his older brother Joey, who was drafted No. 3 overall by the Chargers in 2016. Both players are relentless, have a powerful burst off the snap, and can win with brute force, technique, hand-usage and a dash of finesse. The younger Bosa is not quite as big as his older brother, but might have a little more juice as a pass rusher, which would make him the ideal candidate to fill the LEO role long term in San Francisco.
Rashan Gary, Michigan | 6-4, 285
Rashan Gary on this play is man v boyhttps://t.co/T9fHqXlm92
— tris (@ChrisUlvinen) September 29, 2018
The top recruit in the nation coming out of high school in 2016, Gary has a ridiculous combination of size and athleticism, even though those tools haven’t translated into big-time sack numbers. Gary can be disruptive in a number of ways and will flash as an edge rusher, but might be asked to move inside full-time at the next level. Given the 49ers’ current roster make-up, Gary might not be the best fit as an outside/inside player similar to former first round picks Solomon Thomas, Deforest Buckner and Arik Armstead.
Clelin Ferrell, Clemson | 6-5, 260
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) September 10, 2018
Ferrell is a prototype long-levered defensive end. He’s been a productive pass rusher for one of the best defensive lines in college football since his redshirt freshman season and already has six sacks through six games in 2018. He uses those long arms to his advantage as both a run defender and to get after the quarterback, showing a combination of instincts and technique that translate well to the next level. Athletic testing numbers will determine where Ferrell ultimately gets drafted, but don’t be surprised when he out-produces some workout warriors on Sundays.
Montez Sweat, Mississippi State | 6-6, 245
Stab -> Club -> Rip -> Work the hips around = pressure
— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) September 9, 2018
Sweat is about as angular as they come for a defensive end. His lack of bulk could push him down the draft board in April, but there is plenty to like about his ability to generate pressure on opposing passers. Initial burst, hand-usage, and a revved up motor are all strengths. Sweat is already off to a fantastic start to his senior season with eight sacks through six games as he looks blow past his 10.5 sacks from a year ago.
Brian Burns, Florida State | 6-5, 235
Brian Burns always has this spin move ready. He's so damn fun pic.twitter.com/LyH3wITheD
— Kyle Hedgespeth (@NLH94) October 10, 2018
We’re onto the SAM linebacker portion of this edge preview. Burns has a chance to be the top stand-up rusher in the 2019 class and would be a fantastic fit for hybrid schemes and 3-4 defenses at outside linebacker, including the strongside linebacker position in San Francisco, where he could set the edge, play a little in space, chase down ball carriers and rush from a 2 or 3-point stance on passing downs. Workouts will tell how high he goes in Round 1. He could help himself by showing up at 240-plus pounds without losing a step.
Jachai Polite, Florida | 6-2, 260
Falling in love with Florida's Jachai Polite. Doesn't have great length, but lots of power in his upper and lower body. pic.twitter.com/utlfBwI01F
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) October 9, 2018
I hadn’t watched Jachai Polite until this week and, whew boy, is there a lot to like. He doesn’t have ideal length for an edge player, but the raw athleticism and burst jumps off the screen. He carries his 260 pounds extremely well (have my doubts he’s actually that heavy). He looks like a player that could blow up the combine in February if he declares after his junior season.
Josh Allen, Kentucky | 6-4, 230
This was the exclamation point on another standout performance by #Kentucky OLB Josh Allen (4 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 FF). His added strength and seasoning in 2018 have made a HUGE difference. pic.twitter.com/kJxhnLVhZ6
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 1, 2018
Allen is a late bloomer, who was a 2-star recruit out of high school that is still growing into his linear frame and playing his best football as a senior for the Wildcats. Likely will be more of a Day 2 pick, as he doesn’t offer the upside of the other edge defenders on this list. I can’t wait until draft season gets into full swing and he becomes known as “the good Josh Allen” to differentiate between him and the Bills rookie quarterback.
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