The 49ers entered the 2014 NFL Draft knowing they had a bit of a question mark surrounding the future availability of Aldon Smith. Adding depth off the edge seemed likely. The quality of edge rushers near the top of the drafted had dwindled considerably by the end of round two. The 49ers were patient and waited until the fifth round when they selected Aaron Lynch from the University of South Florida.
Lynch isn't your average fifth round pick. In fact, if not for some off the field concerns, many think Lynch's upside could have earned him a first round selection. First round talent is rarely available in the fifth round. So what kind of player are the 49ers getting? Let's take a closer look.
Weight: 255 (per Lynch's conference call after being drafted)
Arm length: 34"
Hands: 10 ¼"
Bench: 19 reps (only workout he participated in at the combine)
40 yard: 4.69*
Broad jump: 9'9"*
3 cone: 7.46*
*Results of individual workout as reported by cbssports.com
- Body size with speed, power, and athleicism of prototypical NFL pass rusher. Long arms allow him to keep blockers from getting into his body while using his hands to disengage. Lynch is also just 21.
- Versatility. Lynch lined up all over the field including the 3, 5, and 7 techniques along the line at Notre Dame. He also has some experience rushing off the edge and dropping into coverage.
- Quick bursts with heavy and active hands allowed him to consistently pressure the pocket. Was very effective with stunts both inside and out and Notre Dame and USF. The 49ers also utilize a bunch of stunts so Lynch will fit right in.
- Work ethic and commitment were challenged at USF. After the 49ers drafted Lynch, his former strength coach at USF, Hans Straub, called him out on Twitter by questioning his character and integrity. Straub has since resigned.Watching the film available of Lynch on DraftBreakdown.com you can clearly see a different Lynch in 2013 at USF from 2011 at Notre Dame. At USF he appears to take a few plays off here and there and doesn't always play through the whistle.
- Extremely raw with technique. Lynch isn't particularly strong against the run and he lacks multiple effective pass rushing moves. Will benefit from being used only is passing downs while he can learn and refine his technique.
Doing your home work
What They're Saying
- Lynch's former college coach and best friend of Jim Harbaugh, Willie Taggert, vouched for Lynch in an interview with The Chronicle.
- Derek Stephens of CBSSports.com said of Lynch:
A freakish athlete with a rare combination of size, speed and length, Lynch explodes off the ball with an impressive first step, exhibits powerful hands to clear a path and closes with elite burst. At 6-6 and just under 250 pounds (was once around 260 while at Notre Dame), Lynch has room to add mass without losing a step, and offers the versatility of lining up at either end, or even along the interior on passing downs.
There's no denying the talent when you watch Lynch at Notre Dame and the last few games at USF. No one's quite sure exactly what Lynch has done to earn the "questionable character" tag but everyone acknowledges Lynch has had some maturation issues. USF coach Willie Taggert said Lynch would benefit from a strong locker room and role models. Taggert's assurances that Lynch wouldn't be a problem were good enough for Harbaugh so they're good enough for me.
During Lynch's phone conference with media he acknowledged losing significant weight due to a prescription for Adderall. He played about 20lbs lighter at USF. That could easily account for most of Lynch's struggles early on in 2013.
The bottom line is Lynch is a classic boom-or-bust prospect. In the fifth round the risk was clearly worth the potential reward. At just 21, and coming off only two full seasons of college football, Lynch's best football is ahead of him. Had he landed with a team with an unstable locker room, you might be able to convince me he wouldn't have success. However, I can't think of a better situation for Aaron Lynch than San Francisco. He's young and still moldable and if takes to coaching well, he'll be given every opportunity to contribute early. The rest is up to him.