The San Francisco 49ers spent a first round pick on defensive tackle Arik Armstead, and "mixed results" might be the best way to describe his rookie season. Former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah, now an analyst for NFL Network, put together a look at the defensive first round picks of the 2015 NFL Draft, and listed Armstead in his mixed results category, giving him a C grade. Here is what Jeremiah had to say about Armstead:
Armstead has yet to start a game, but I like some of the things he's done when he's seen game action. He uses his length to stack blockers and I see flashes of pass-rush potential.
Armstead has primarily been playing in the 49ers passing down defense. In some games he only gets in on dime and goal line situations. In other games, he'll get more nickel work. This past week against the Cleveland Browns, he focused primarily in those areas, but then got some base defense work in the fourth quarter once the game was out of hand.
Armstead finished the Browns game with 35 defensive snaps, which was his second highest total. In Week 11, he had 46 snaps against the Seattle Seahawks. Pro Football Focus provided Armstead with a positive grade (+2.8, I'm working on getting the specific breakdown), crediting him with a sack and four hurries on 20 pass rushes.
I took a look at Armstead's snaps specifically, and what stood out on his positive pass rush plays was his strength and ability to gain leverage against the right tackle. What also stood out was some inconsistency with that. This coming offseason will be big for him to potentially learn a new move, adding to his pass rush arsenal. We don't know what his plan is for the offseason, but it'd be great to see him find a retired defensive lineman to further develop his skills.
One thing I did notice with Armstead, and it's something others have as well, is that there are too many instances where he seemingly gives up on plays. In particular, if a run play was not coming in his direction, he appears to frequently jog toward the play. I get the need to conserve energy at times, but when a player is not getting a full complement of snaps, it can get a little frustrating seeing them not running things out a bit more.
He's not the only player who does this, but it does not make it any less frustrating, particularly given the kind of extra effort Justin Smith consistently produced. It's not fair to compare Armstead with Smith at this point, but extra hustle is not something that requires talent.