Each offseason, we like to run a series of articles here on Niners Nation called "90-in-90." In the post, we take a look at 90 players (or so) on the San Francisco 49ers' 90-man roster throughout the offseason and what we can expect of them the following year. We take a look at their expected impact, whether or not they'll make the roster and things of that nature. For rookies, we're going back and looking at how we did with those posts.
So far we've looked at Arik Armstead, Jaquiski Tartt and most recently, running back Mike Davis. For me personally, Tartt had a great year and his outlook is positive, but Davis is at the total opposite end of the spectrum. Today's player, outside linebacker Eli Harold, is somewhere in the middle.
Unlike Armstead, who was raw and Tartt, who wasn't supposed to see the field save for on special teams, Harold came with some decent expectations. In his 90-in-90 post, written by Fooch, Harold was described as a strong pass-rusher with adequate speed and hands. He didn't have a big arsenal of pass rushing moves, and he showed a lack of ability against the run in college.
But pass rushers rotate often, and the best way to figure out if Harold had the moves in the league was to rotate him in, as Fooch explained:
As Neumann pointed out in his film breakdown, Harold should be able to get on the field early on as part of a pass rushing rotation. He brings a different look than Lynch and Smith, which would seemingly help the 49ers defense keep opposing offenses further off balance. I don't know what percentage of snaps we can expect, but there will be some kind of rotation.
Harold played in all 16 games as a rookie, but didn't put up much in the stat department. Unfortunately, he had just 14 total tackles, no sacks and a fumble recovery. He got a lot of playing time on special teams, but his rotation as a pass rusher was limited throughout the year. That's with Aldon Smith out of the picture and Ahmad Brooks not being great.
But on an individual, play by play basis, I liked what I saw from Harold at the end of the day. Specifically, as the season neared its end, Harold's play hit another level and he looked like he was making strides. Between Harold and Corey Lemonier, they had 609 snaps and neither of them got a sack, but if I was to go just by players beating offensive linemen, I saw Harold do it quite a few more times than Lemonier.
The problem: Harold didn't really impress me as a run stopper. I saw him get pushed out of the play a couple different times, and while his speed rush has been effective, at times it put him completely out of position when it comes to stopping a runner. But again, there was progress from the start of the season to the end of the season, and while Harold didn't get a sack, he showed some moves.
Unlike Lemonier, who has only ever impressed me as a tackler and not much else.
Going by Harold's 90-in-90 post, we were probably a little too optimistic about what he could do as a rookie. Scouts noted his rawness coming out college and his tape was often frustrating with how he would get shut down. He rotated in, as expected, but he didn't show enough as a pass rusher to have anyone at ease going into next season. Still, there's a lot of potential there and I hope he gets plenty of looks this offseason.