Just by taking a look at the 49ers pre draft contact list appears to be clear that the positions they've identified as a "need" are WR, DL, and CB. In fact, there have been quite a few defensive linemen to meet with 49ers personnel in just the last month or so. One of them is Junior Mario Edwards Jr. from Florida State.
School: Florida State
Height: 6-2 3/4
Weight: 272 lbs
Arm length: 33 1/4"
Hands: 10 7/8"
40 yard dash: 4.84
Bench: 32 reps
Vertical Jump: 32.5"
Broad Jump: 120"
3 cone: 7.44
20-yd shuttle: 4.55
- Edwards is a strong, athletic lineman capable of playing from just about any spot on the line. I think he projects best as a 5T end in a 3-4 but he's shown ability to play inside as a 3T and even lined up a ton off the edge. Edwards also lined up as a fullback in several goal line packages for FSU.
- Excellent run defender with natural ability to stack and shed blockers.
- Shows excellent balance and quick feet when picking through traffic.
- Establishes a strong edge vs run plays forcing the runner inside and allowing teammates to make the tackle.
- Has never been a consistent pass rusher and his technique is still very raw. Relies too much on power/strength.
- Despite scheme versatility, it's hard to project a true home for Edwards. He appeared to be playing out of position when asked to rush off the edge and drop into coverage.
- Inconsistent quickness off the ball.
- Didn't post the numbers expected after being the number one ranked high school player in the country heading into college.
Doing Your Homework:
Check out Edwards in the 2014 National Championship game vs. Auburn. Edwards had a great game against former first rounder Greg Robinson. You can also see games against Miami from 2013 and Florida in 2014 over at DraftBreakdown.com.
Why he fits the 49ers:
The 49ers love versatility in the defensive linemen and Edwards is exactly that. He's proven he can play at a higher weight making 5T a likely landing spot. He can then inside when the 9ers move into the nickel.
Edwards is a sound run defender, a must-have trait for the 49ers scheme that relies heavily on the defensive line to fill running lanes. Sure his pass rushing game needs work but with his frame and natural athleticism Edwards can be coached up by Jim Tomsula and Co. and eventually turn into a solid interior pass rusher.
Why he doesn't fit the 49ers:
Depending on who you ask, Edwards is a fringe first round option. That's a steep price on a raw defender without a natural position. If Edwards' game was flipped and he was a better pass rusher than run defender, one could easily justify that lofty projection. But since it's not, second or third round might be his best value.
Then comes the question of whether or not DL is even as big a need as some perceive it to be. There are plenty of solid options on the roster even if Justin Smith chooses to retire. When you factor in that the 9ers are in the nickel more than 50% of the time it seems that adding a lineman early in the draft just isn't as pressing as initially thought.
What they're saying:
- CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora says Edwards is a likely first rounder. The article also contains footage of a 300lbs Edwards doing a standing backflip.
- Mike Mayock of NFL Network called Edwards one of the fastest risers late in the draft process. "The tape is inconsistent, but as coaches get involved, they want to work with this piece of clay," Mayock said. "He's got everything you want in a Pro Bowl edge rusher except consistency."
- NFL Network Gil Brandt noted Edwards had a great pro day. "Edwards had an outstanding pro-day workout, looking athletic and moving around well with great explosion. Edwards really helped himself in the draft at the pro day."
- Check out Edwards' stats over at CFBstats.com.
I've watched every game of Mario Edwards Jr.'s collegiate career and there's no doubting his potential. 300 pound men shouldn't be doing standing back flips, that's insane. But until the standing back flip earns him a QB pressure or sack, Edwards is as tough a projection there is in this draft class.
What muddies the water even further is that Edwards seemingly played out of position for most of his time at FSU. Edwards often occupied the "jack" linebacker role that had him playing as a stand-up edge rusher and even had him dropping into coverage at times. Keep in mind he played at or near 300 pounds in 2014. That led some to believe he may have a conditioning problem; but it's entirely possible the staff at FSU asked Edwards to bulk up prior to the 2014 season.
Still just 21 years old, Edwards will find the most success going to a team that will give him a defined role that takes advantage of what he does best, stopping the run. The pass rush will develop over time and I think Edwards will have a long career in the NFL.