The San Francisco 49ers’ defense has had positive moments, but the pass rush remains a huge problem. The team is able to get some interior pressure, but they get very little off the edge to create problems.
Of course, when the team does not address the position during the offseason, these things are going to happen. The 49ers extended Cassius Marsh and signed Jeremiah Attaochu (later released), while declining Elvis Dumervil’s option after he had led the team in sacks in 2017.
The team is in a rebuilding process, and it is entirely possible they targeted the 2019 offseason as the best opportunity to add talent to the group. NFL Draft picks are no sure thing, but the 2019 NFL Draft could feature an especially talented group of edge rushers.
The 49ers are looking at a fairly high draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. I decided to ask Greg Valerio, Josh Eccles, and Alex Eisen to put together a ranking of their top five edge rushers for 2019. Additionally, each of them wrote up their favorite edge rusher, and their favorite sleeper in the draft.
Edge rusher rankings, 10/3
|Rk||Greg Valerio||Josh Eccles||Alex Eisen|
|Rk||Greg Valerio||Josh Eccles||Alex Eisen|
|1||Nick Bosa, Ohio State||Nick Bosa, Ohio State||Nick Bosa, Ohio State|
|2||Clelin Ferrell, Clemson||Clelin Ferrell, Clemson||Clelin Ferrell, Clemson|
|3||Brian Burns, Florida State||Montez Sweat, Mississippi State||Brian Burns, Florida State|
|4||Montez Sweat, Mississippi State||Joe Jackson, Miami||Montez Sweat, Mississippi State|
|5||Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech||Josh Allen, Kentucky||Joe Jackson, Miami (FL)|
Favorite: Josh Allen, DE, No. 41 - Kentucky
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 230 | 40 time: 4.69
2018 stats (5 games): 6 sacks, 33 tackles (17 solo), 10.5 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles
If you’ve paid any attention at all to college football this season then you know that Kentucky has been surprising folks with their undefeated start as they near the halfway mark of the 2018 season. Many would argue that their run can’t last much longer as matchups against the likes of Georgia (and the rest of the SEC) loom on the horizon. One of the many impressive things about the Wildcats thus far has been the play of pass rushing specialist Josh Allen whom, week in and week out, has shown fans and scouts alike that he is, indeed, the real deal.
His most impressive showing was also his most recent one against South Carolina as managed to disrupt the Gamecocks’ entire offense on his way to tallying a total of 3 sacks. He’s strong, athletic, intelligent, has a high motor, and would slide in perfectly to what San Francisco is trying to do on defense. He is a little on the small side but will grow into his body as time goes on so that should not - in any way - be a detractor from teams taking a chance on him.
Sleeper: Chase Winovich, DE, No. 15 - Michigan
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 255 | 40 time: 4.77
2018 stats (5 games): 3 sacks, 32 tackles (18 solo), 10.5 tackles for loss
A legitimate argument could be made about the fact that Jim Harbaugh’s stint as head coach at Michigan has been a bit of a letdown. You know what isn’t a letdown, though? Watching Wolverine EDGE rusher Chase Winovich play football. The dude has a high motor and always seems to find a way to disrupt things in the backfield. 2019 will be a deep year for pass rushers and Winovich provides good value for any team who may find themselves unable to select one of the many talented EDGE rushers within the first three rounds of the draft. Like I said, he has a high motor - that paired with his good athleticism and his ability to get around the edge and into the backfield bodes well for him to make his mark as a pro for years to come.
Favorite: Nick Bosa, DE, No. 97 - Ohio State
Height: 6’4” | Weight: 265 | 40 time: 4.75
2018 stats (3 games): 4 sacks, 14 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, and 1 touchdown
Although I am a huge fan of Florida State’s Brian Burns, I have to go with my favorite prospect in the draft class in Nick Bosa. It is rare to see two brothers sharing high-end success at the next level, but Nick Bosa is on the path to match older brother’s “Joey” ride and success in the NFL. The junior is a tremendously gifted athletic talent showcasing a terrific combination of size, strength, athleticism, natural ability, power, quickness, football intelligence, and superb technique. A man amongst boys, Bosa is an all around complete player with excellent technique, adept in all facets of the game whether rushing the passer, wreaking havoc in the backfield, or as a stout run stopper. NFL Bloodlines runs thick and Bosa’s successful transition to the next level is pretty much a sure thing, but first he needs to get healthy.
Sleeper: Oshane Ximines, No. 7 - Old Dominion
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 252 | 40 time: 4.65
2018 stats (5 games): 6 sacks, 29 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 1 pass deflection, and 2 forced fumbles
Although not really considered a “sleeper” per se, Oshane Ximines is a somewhat under-the-radar prospect worth keeping an eye on. A leader on the field, Ximines is an explosive LEO prospect with destructive tendencies wreaking havoc in opponents’ backfields. A standout tough athlete with an immense passion for the game, Ximines is an impressive pass rush talent with great first-step explosion, length, fluid change-of-direction skills, quickness, agility, strength, and athleticism. He showcases good bend off the edge (nice flexibility) maintaining balance and burst closing with speed and violence. He does a good job utilizing his active hands and is quick to transition into his pass rush moves with smoothness winning with speed, power, and awareness.
Favorite: Clelin Ferrell, No. 99, - Clemson
Height: 6’5 | Weight: 260 | 40 Time: 4.71
2018 Stats: (5 Games) 17 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble.
Nick Bosa has my vote to be the number one pass rusher off the board come April, even with his current injury. However, my favorite pass rusher in this draft has, and continues to be Clelin Ferrell out of Clemson. Causing disruption along the line of scrimmage is an understatement. Ferrell’s dominance along the line not only puts him in the spotlight, but creates plays and valuable opportunities for his fellow defensive lineman (3 other future first round picks).
Last season Ferrell filled up the stat sheet with over sixty total tackles and 9.5 sacks. His short area quickness and burst off the line are among the most explosive in the nation. He gets to the quarterback often and early. Ferrell is strong against the run, and the point of attack. Has a great frame, with strong and reliable hands that scouts and evaluators seek at the next level. A nightmare for offensive lineman to cover, and will often require to be double-teamed along the line of scrimmage. The scary thought about Ferrell was that many had him as a top 15 pick had he declared in 2018. Ferrell will continue to build his resume as he is looking like a top 10 lock in next year’s draft.
Sleeper: Carl Granderson, No. 91 - Wyoming
Height: 6’4” | Weight: 255 | 40 Time: 4.75
2018 Stats (5 Games): 16 total tackles, 1 sack, 1 batted pass
Keep a close eye on Carl Granderson out of Wyoming. The converted pass rusher continues to climb up draft boards after a productive season in 2017 where he totaled 77 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble. Does not nearly get the media attention playing in the Mountain West Conference. However, he has received positive marks and early praise from scouts and evaluators. Has a strong build and frame that will transition nicely at the next level.
Watching Granderson on tape, he has the ability to find the small gaps and holes heading towards the opponents backfield. Strong, reliable hands help him push off blockers. Has shown the ability to stop the run, and make his presence known on passing downs. Disrupts and clogs up potential gaps against the run. On numerous occasions Granderson is reading the passer’s eyes, and adjusting accordingly to make an impact on the play. Has nice burst along the line, off the snap. Since converting to defensive end, he has built a package of pass rusher moves that he continues to polish and improve upon each season. He might not be in the national spotlight, but he is slowly getting the scouts’ attention while raising his draft stock in the process. At the moment Granderson is a late day two, early day three pick with his arrow pointing up.