The San Francisco 49ers face some question marks along the defensive line as they prepare for the 2015 NFL Draft. Justin Smith may or may not still deciding whether or not to retire. Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams are both coming off season-ending injuries last season. Ray McDonald was released midway through last season, and has been replaced by Darnell Dockett, who is coming off a torn ACL a year ago.
The team has depth at the position, but it remains to be seen how much they expect from Quinton Dial, Tank Carradine and Tony Jerod-Eddie, as well as whatever Kaleb Ramsey might offer. Dial and TJE have shown the most thus far, while Tank could have as much potential as any of the group. Unfortunately he has not been able to get on the field consistently to show it.
The 49ers defensive line corps includes the following: Justin Smith, Darnell Dockett, Ian Williams, Glenn Dorsey, Quinton Dial, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Tank Carradine, Kaleb Ramsey, Lawrence Okoye, Mike Purcell and Garrison Smith.
Smith potential retirement is a big deal for the 49ers potential performance in 2015, but it does not prevent the 49ers from deciding to take a first round defensive lineman, or waiting to add depth. Smith is a short-time player if he returns, so you plan for the future without him anyway.
If Smith returns, you have potentially him and Dockett starting on the defensive line. It seems almost a foregone conclusion that the team will employ a fairly significant rotation of players on the line. They were already starting that the last couple years, and whether or not Smith returns, we'll see more of it this year. Dockett is coming off an ACL tear, and turns 34 next month. We can already expect more playing time combined between Dial, Tank and TJE.
One question that is a little harder to figure out is a combination of Glenn Dorsey's role and who will handle nose tackle duties. Williams suffered a broken leg a year after breaking his ankle. Dorsey suffered a torn biceps muscle in training camp, and was unable to return from the short term injured reserve. Both should be back, although Williams second straight lower leg injury makes him potentially a little bit more of a question mark to return.
Dial played a lot of nose tackle late last season after Williams got hurt, but the team has indicated they like him more at the end role in their base defense. If Williams remains out, does that mean Dorsey returns to the nose role? If Williams is back, does he get the nose work, and Dorsey becomes the primary sub? And of course, that also depends on Justin Smith's future. If Smith retires, suddenly Dorsey, Dial, Tank and TJE are all in line for more end work.
SO MANY QUESTIONS!
The 49ers have frequently been connected to Arik Armstead in mock drafts. The 49ers have visited with Armstead, and also held official visits with Mario Edwards, Eddie Goldman and Tory Slater. They have had other visits as well, but those are some of the notable names.
Poldarn's composite big board ranked out the following defensive linemen (removing edge rushers):
1. Leonard Williams, USC
2. Danny Shelton, Washington
3. Malcom Brown, Texas
4. Arik Armstead, oregon
5. Eddie Goldman, Florida State
6. Jordan Phillips, Oklhaoma
7. Carlo Davis, Iowa
8. Michael Bennett, Ohio State
9. Xavier Cooper, Washington State
10. Grady Jarrett, Clemson
11. Henry Anderson, Stanford
12. Gabe Wright, Auburn
13. Marcus Hardison, Arizona State
14. Ellis McCarthy, UCLA
15. Christian Covington, Rice
16. Xavier Williams, Northern Iowa
17. Tyeler Davison, Fresno State
18. Joey Mbu, Houston
19. Corey Crawford, Clemson
20. Darius Philon, Arkansas
21. Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Southern Miss
22. Derrick Lott, Chattanooga
23. Kyle Emanuel, North Dakota State
24. Leterrius Walton, Central Michigan
25. Louis Trinca-Pasat, Iowa