The NFL Scouting Combine begins in less than a week on February 26. It’s a critical phase of the offseason that will significantly alter the landscape of the 2019 NFL Draft beginning April 25. As inevitable change approaches, draft pundits have begun to find common ground on where general manager John Lynch may go with the 49ers’ No. 2 overall pick.
For years, Niners Nation has been compiling mock drafts and the first-round picks chosen by analysts for San Francisco. The 49ers’ selection of OT Mike McGlinchey in 2018 wasn’t nearly as popular of a prediction as DE Solomon Thomas was in ‘17. As the additions pile up for 2019, it’s become increasingly clear that Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen has emerged as the consensus pick for the 49ers at second-overall.
Ohio State pass rusher Nick Bosa, widely considered the draft’s top prospect, is far-and-away the most common prospect offered to the Arizona Cardinals with the No. 1 pick. Also entering the picture for both the Cardinals and 49ers is Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams. Bosa, Allen and Williams, not necessarily in that order, are often the three top choices in any given mock draft.
It’s easy to see why Allen has emerged as the favorite for the 49ers. The 6-foot-5, 260-pound pass rusher seems to be an ideal fit for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s scheme. Allen possesses the speed, athleticism and coverage ability to function as the SAM linebacker on base downs - roughly one-third of defensive snaps. The majority of Allen’s impact would come in sub-packages and obvious passing situations, rushing the passer off the edge of the 49ers’ defensive front.
In 2018, Allen racked up an impressive 88 total tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 17 sacks, five forced fumbles and four pass breakups. He dominated in the Citrus Bowl with three sacks and a blocked field goal in Kentucky’s 27-24 victory over Penn St. Allen’s ability to get after the quarterback would be the complementary presence to interior standout DeForest Buckner, who accounted for 12 sacks last season.
Williams is another common pick for the 49ers. He’d join Arik Armstead, Buckner and Thomas as the fourth defensive lineman selected by San Francisco in the last five years. Williams (6-3, 285) totaled 71 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks for the Crimson Tide in 2018.
Williams is widely considered the No. 2 prospect and has picked up steam as a possibility to supplant Bosa for the draft’s top pick. The Cardinals, who already have standout pass rusher Chandler Jones, may be feel Williams can have a greater impact on their defense rather than adding another edge rusher. A quarterback-needy team could also trade-up with the Cardinals in the hopes of landing their franchise signal-caller. Both situations would lead to Bosa falling into the lap of Lynch and the 49ers.
In 29 games, Bosa (6-4, 260) totaled 77 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks and two forced fumbles for the Buckeyes. His junior season was cut short after suffering an abdominal injury against TCU in Week 3. Rather than rehabilitate and return to Ohio State later in the year, Bosa opted to forgo the rest of the season and prepare for the NFL Draft. The decision hasn’t damaged his draft stock and remains the top prospect on nearly every draft board.
It’s worth noting that the 49ers themselves could be a target for trades on draft day. If Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan aren’t sold on any of the three top prospects, or an offer is too good to turn down, they could entertain a trade-back and look to bolster their draft capital.
For now, it’s Allen dominating the conversation for the 49ers. That could change as soon as next week when the combine begins. Projections will continue to evolve as prospects take part in their pro days, and team needs may change once NFL free agency kicks off on March 13.