With the way Nick Bosa is playing, you’d think he was drafted a few years back. Nope, he’s a rookie. The San Francisco 49ers’ 4-3 defense was a natural fit for the pass rusher, and he’s been on an island since healing up from that high ankle sprain. But what if he played out of his defensive system? Well, that might have happened.
Does anyone remember when everyone thought the 49ers weren’t going to get him?
Bosa was seen as the best player in the 2019 NFL Draft and according to some, by a large margin. Some pundits said he’d be better than his brother, Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, who has made a name for himself at the position as well. Unfortunately, the Arizona Cardinals were holding that No. 1 pick, and it was crazy talk to think the 49ers had a shot at getting such a player at No. 2. The Cardinals were also going back to a 3-4 defense. A 3-4 scheme would have made Bosa a linebacker. How was that going to work? Drop him into coverage?
“I’m not sure how he’d have transitioned,” Kliff Kingsbury said via media conference call. “I think probably a little bit of both to start, but I could have seen him standing up as a WILL or a SAM for us.”
Yeah, that wouldn’t have been a good idea. Bosa said he wanted to play with his hand in the dirt before the draft. While some players have worked out being transitioned to linebacker, many others have had hopeful careers ruined. Former 49ers defensive player Tank Carradine comes to mind here. Carradine was considered a first-round defensive end before tearing his ACL. This allowed the 49ers a chance to take him in the 2nd round. The problem was that he was drafted to be a defensive tackle and replace Justin Smith. Carradine said the weight gain was disorienting and eventually asked to be a linebacker. By the time Robert Saleh arrived to turn things to a 4-3 years later, it might have been too late. Carradine is currently a free agent.
We’ll never know. The Cardinals went on to draft Kyler Murray at quarterback, and John Lynch had the easiest decision ever in front of him. Had Bosa went to the Cardinals, maybe he would have fought the battle of being something he’s not.
Or maybe Bosa could succeed dropping into coverage more often. Thankfully, we will never know.