Santa Claus visited San Francisco 49ers’ fans in spirit by using some Christmas magic and somehow, someway, the Oakland Raiders beat the Denver Broncos. The win puts the 49ers at the second pick and now they have a legitimate shot at Nick Bosa.
Wait, what? Did I just say Nick Bosa with the second pick?
Yes, I did. Providing nothing crazy happens (and the New York Jets strength of schedule can stay stronger), the 49ers will pick second behind the Arizona Cardinals, and Nick Bosa being available at No. 2 is in the realm of possibility.
In the 2018 draft, the Cardinals took quarterback Josh Rosen 10th overall, trading their first, third, and fifth round selections for the pick. While his rookie season leaves something to be desired, it wasn’t terrible. Through Week 16, he’s had 10 touchdowns to 14 interceptions and a 55.4 percent completion percentage. Now that’s not anything world beating. In fact, if this was an experienced quarterback, it’d be a one-way ticket to the bench, but for a rookie season, it’s not enough for the Cardinals to move on either. Especially when you consider the real estate they gave up to get him.
There’s also something to consider with Rosen’s average play: His offensive line is awful. We’re talking ranked dead last at Pro Football Focus going into Week 16, and bottom quarter at Football Outsiders. We’re talking 39 sacks with one game to go. If you’re getting nailed like that, you’re going to throw picks. If you’re a rookie, it can be detrimental to your career. Just ask the dozens of young quarterbacks who had subpar offensive lines (David Carr comes to mind). The 49ers (wisely) knew they had a good quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo and invested in protection for him by grabbing Mike McGlinchey and spending money on Weston Richburg in free agency. Right now McGlinchey is having the best season among all rookie offensive linemen and Joe Staley is holding down the other end despite being in the twilight of his career.
The Cardinals best player? D.J. Humphries who ranks 66th among all NFL linemen in overall grade. They just spent a lot on a quarterback. They very well could (and in my opinion should) protect that investment and get him a a tackle or a guard.
Several mock drafts have had Alabama tackle Jonah Williams going to the Cardinals. A solid pick and a great left tackle that has turned heads for far more people than fans of the Crimson Tide. To get started, they could use Williams as a guard, but considering how well he’s performed at the left tackle position (which I consider the second most important position in football), they could slot him in at left tackle and have someone holding down the left side, Rosen’s blind side, and get those sack numbers down. Then in free agency they could fix their other issues.
That of course leaves the two best pass rushers available for the 49ers taking: Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa and Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen (the pass rusher, not the quarterback). If Nick Bosa bombs during the Combine, the 49ers have options at the other top guy in Josh Allen. This of course also works if the Cardinals did something stupid and took Bosa (yeah, I said it—in their position a pass rusher is a horrible move unless they address the O-line in free agency), leaving Allen to the 49ers.
I really think that first pick for the Cardinals could lead to Williams and not Bosa given that they have their quarterback for the future and they don’t want him to get rattled and ruined before he can grow into the role like so many other young quarterbacks. For that reason, Williams is a very distinct possibility come April. Is he a can’t-miss prospect? We’ll have to wait and see, but if his combine is successful, the Cardinals would be wise to protect the investment they made before they look to pass rusher.