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49ers select surging pass rusher in Mel Kiper’s 2019 mock NFL Draft

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ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper released his first mock NFL Draft of 2019, pegging the 49ers with a Kentucky pass rusher quickly climbing up draft boards.

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Kentucky vs Penn State Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers still have a handful of roster needs heading into Year 3 of the John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan era. With the second-overall pick in the NFL Draft, the 49ers have a chance to add premier talent capable of making an immediate impact. Among the team’s most pressing needs is a pass rusher capable of threatening opposing quarterbacks off the edge.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper released his first mock draft of 2019 on Thursday, selecting Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen with the 49ers’ No. 2 pick:

The 49ers took a defensive linemen in the first round in three straight years (2015 to ‘17), but DeForest Buckner is the only true star of the group. And none of those picks has the edge-rushing potential of Allen, who racked up 17 sacks for the Wildcats this season. If you’re talking about pure pass-rushing ability, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Allen is right up there with Bosa. San Francisco needs to add offensive weapons this offseason, but none is worth taking this high.

It should be made clear that Allen, listed as an outside linebacker by Kiper, isn’t your typical defensive lineman. The 49ers have invested heavily into the front four with Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas, but none are capable of threatening offenses from the edge. Allen would likely fill the role of SAM linebacker in the 49ers’ base defense, while rushing the passer in sub-packages that account for roughly two-thirds of snaps. He’d give the 49ers an every-down complimentary threat to pair with Buckner, who racked up 12 sacks from the interior in 2018.

After two seven-sack seasons in 2016 and ‘17, Allen (6-5, 260) exploded in 2018. He amassed 88 total tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 17 sacks and five forced fumbles as a senior for the Wildcats. Allen capped off his collegiate career with an impressive showing in the Citrus Bowl, racking up four tackles, three sacks, three tackles for loss and a blocked field goal.

“You all record this,” Allen said after the game. “If I don’t go No. 1, I don’t know who is.”

In Kiper’s mock, Allen was second only to Nick Bosa, the consensus No. 1 prospect on most draft boards. The former Ohio State pass rusher totaled 16 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in 2017. His junior season was cut short with a core injury, with Bosa (6-4, 263) opting to recover and prepare for the draft rather than returning to finish out the 2018 season.

Allen was the recipient of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, and Lott Impact Trophy — all three awarded to college football’s top defensive player in 2018.