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49ers 90-in-90: Nick Bosa somehow outperformed expectations as a rookie

Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today is edge rusher Nick Bosa

NFL: OCT 27 Panthers at 49ers Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s not often the No. 2 overall pick can outperform expectations, but that’s what San Francisco 49ers rookie edge rusher Nick Bosa did in 2019. Bosa averaged a sack a game during the first seven games of the season, and you can argue he improved as a player in the second half, despite not having the same sack totals. When it mattered the most, Bosa brought down the quarterback. The rookie edge rusher had a sack in each of the three playoff games.

Sacks aren’t the best way to judge how productive a player is, but we’ve started to slant toward stats that make it seem sacks don’t matter. Pressures are great, but there are too many examples of a player getting pressure and the offense still having a positive play. You can’t say the same about a sack. What pressures do tell you is how often a player is around the quarterback. Bosa had the fifth-most QB hits and the sixth-most pressures. To say Bosa had a great rookie season is an understatement. When you dig a little deeper, five of the six players ahead of Nick in pressures had at least 30 more pass-rushing snaps than Bosa, who finished ten short of leader Danielle Hunter. Bosa has an argument that he was the best edge rusher in the NFL as a rookie. Saying that out loud is kind of crazy, but it doesn’t feel off.

Basic info

Age: 22 (Turns 23 October 23)

Accrued seasons: 1

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 266 pounds

Cap Status

Bosa is entering the second season of his four-year rookie contract. His cap number in 2020 will be $7.7 million. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the 49ers better be prepared for that number to triple in the coming years.

Why he might regress in 2020

If there is no football in 2020, Bosa will technically not improve. Aside from that, 2019 was probably the worst version we’ll see of Bosa until he reaches the twilight of his career. I’ve never been the type to wait and crown players, and I’m certainly not going to do that with Bosa. He did set the bar incredibly high, though. There will be games and probably even seasons where Bosa’s production takes a dip. As a player, I can’t see him regressing.

Why he might improve in 2020

Bosa spoke to the media on May 6 said he’s going to be a much smarter player this year. Bosa felt like he wasted rushes and made foolish mistakes. Bosa said he plans to see the field better and not make the same technique mistakes he made as a rookie.

I’d expect improvement as Bosa won’t need the first few games to get into game shape. If you recall, last summer, he was recovering from a calf injury that kept him out of training camp and limited his conditioning. That caused him to miss some tackles early in the season. Bosa missed 11 tackles on the season, and about half of those were sacks. He cleans up the missed tackles and over-aggression, only double and triple teams will prevent Bosa from being a superstar.