The San Francisco 49ers head into the 2012 season with a pretty solid handle on their nose tackles for this season. The likely rotation will see Isaac Sopoaga starting and Ricky Jean-Francois as the primary backup there and at defensive end. It is possible RJF could surpass Sopoaga, or Ian Williams could work his way into the rotation, but at this point that seems to be the general idea of things.
The real issue though, is that both Sopoaga and RJF are free agents after the upcoming season. I have to think the 49ers bring back at least one of them, but it remains to be seen what the long term plan is at nose tackle. Ian Williams was a highly sought after rookie free agent, but he remains a player who went undrafted. He could turn into a nose tackle of the future, he could develop into a solid backup, or he could simply wash out of the league.
In his conference call yesterday (lengthy transcript here), Mike Mayock was asked by Stampede Blue's Brad Wellsabout the nose tackle position. Head after the jump to check out Mayock's comments.
I would start with Alameda Ta'amu from Washington, if you're talking about pure nose tackle for either a 3-4 or 4-3. So Ta'amu would be a late 2 to 3. He's massive and may only be a two-down defender but those downs are going to be really good. I think Mike Martin from Michigan, and the appeal to Martin as a potential third round pick is he's not as big, but he probably offers as much or more pass rush than any of the second or third round defensive tackles in this draft in those positions.
I think Ta'amu would be the first guy we talk about. I think Mike Martin would be the second guy. The Chapman kid from Alabama who tore the ACL and played through it last year, not sure when he's going to be available, but teams really like Chapman, fourth or fifth round, depending on the status of the ACL. And as you go down through the draft, there's is a line-from BYU and some other guys. But for second and third round, those are the guys I would look at.
Where, if at all, do the 49ers need to look at the nose tackle position? I've seen a lot of chatter about finding Justin Smith's eventual replacement, but you could make an argument that nose tackle could be a considerably bigger need after this coming season.