Many of you probably read the headline as “Can Nick Bosa be the Defensive Rookie of the Year?”
I’m talking about Bosa competing with the likes of LA Rams Aaron Donald, Chicago Bears Khalil Mack, Houston Texans J.J. Watt or Carolina Panthers’ Luke Kuechly. They are all competing at the highest level in the NFL to be the very best player.
It’s a lofty goal but why would we not have those expectations? He was the second overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft and the first defensive player off the board. Bosa has been wildly regarded as one of the best pass rush prospects since Mack and the 49ers finally have a first round player with serious “star power.”
Now before you all rush to the comments and yell “Buckner, Buckner, Buckner”, realize that while DeForest Buckner was a top prospect and has emerged as a star in this league, he still didn't have the star power coming out of Oregon that Bosa brings. Buckner’s presence is a big reason why I feel this isn't an impossibility, but we will get to that in a minute.
What does Bosa bring to the 49ers?
Elite athleticism, speed, and physicality unmatched by anyone else in his draft class. Not only is his first step faster than the likes of Mack and Watt, but his overall speed throughout the play is in the upper class of the NFL at the position.
Here you see Bosa on the right side burn the tackle and bend the corner with impressive speed. If he can make plays like this at the NFL level, he will have a great career.
Not only were Bosa’s pass rush skills on display during his career at Ohio State, but every aspect of his game was at an above average level. Although limited in his final year due to a lower abdominal injury, you can see that he made every one of his snaps count. Pro Football Focus has his full career grades here:
A look at Nick Bosa's career grades at Ohio State pic.twitter.com/nYHuXCRpMF— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 4, 2019
How it’s possible:
One of the major factors in why it’s a possibility Bosa can play at such a high level in his rookie season is the fact that he now lines up alongside DeForest Buckner and pass rush specialist Dee Ford.
Having two guys considered at the top of their game entrenched in the front seven with Bosa will be monumental in his development on the field. This will alleviate double teams and allow Bosa to do what he does best, get the quarterback.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh can utilize every stunt in the book to get these guys in open space and that all plays into Bosa’s game.
The 49ers have invested so much into this front seven over the years, in 2019 they should finally start to see a return on that investment. They will be trotting out a complete defensive line of all former first round selections. I mean as cliche as it is, you really cant double team everyone, and I think that Bosa will benefit the most from it.
For Buckner, what we might see in 2019 is a bit of a drop off in sacks. I think his ability in the interior is too good for opposing offenses to not target him. Buckner will eat double teams and the EDGE rushers are going to reap the rewards. Bosa in my opinion is already a better natural pass rusher than Ford, that is how I see Bosa becoming the ultimate benefactor.
The key for all of this to come together will obviously be everyone staying healthy and playing in all 16 games in 2019. Easier said than done in this league. If Bosa can be on the field every week, then he has a real chance of showing his ability to be the very best defender in football.
It’s a very high expectation but at some point in all of this we should expect him to be the best. If we don’t, then what are we really rooting for?