Dee Ford is an afterthought, based on John Lynch’s comments this past Monday. Samson Ebukam is an intriguing athlete, but he’s never rushed the passer full-time. It’s logical to assume the Niners are drafting an edge rusher in this upcoming class.
In a dream world, Miami’s Jaelan Phillips falls to the second round. He’s the best defensive player in this draft for my money. Phillips had his pro day on Monday and ran a 4.56 40-yard dash, a 125-inch broad jump, a 36-inch vertical jump, with a 4.13 short shuttle, and a 7.01 3-cone at 260 pounds. Each of those numbers was, at worst, in the 80 percentiles.
We can scratch Phillips off the list.
Let’s take a look at four potential edge rushers who the Niners could be interested in when pick No. 43 rolls around.
Joe Tryon - Washington
The 49ers attended Washington’s pro day, and Kyle Shanahan has visited their campus during this offseason. Washington has a handful of NFL prospects, but Tryon may be the most intriguing.
At 259 pounds, Tryon tested like an elite athlete:
#Washington EDGE Joe Tryon doesn't get a lot of buzz, but he may be one of the sleepers of the #NFLDraft before all is said and done. Posted an Elite #RAS at his pro day— Chris Spooner (@SpoonfulofSport) March 30, 2021
(Splits projected on historical averages. 40 times averaged. Numbers from @JimNagy_SB. RAS from @MathBomb) pic.twitter.com/bfDHZ5BfzS
When watching edge rushers, here’s what wins in the NFL:
Flexibility around the edge
Knockback on LOS
Getting off blocks
If a player struggles with each of those, they’re unlikely to succeed in the NFL.
Tryon opted out of the 2020 season, but you can see his first step and how he knocks back an offensive lineman right away. Tryon made a lot of plays with high energy and effort, which is why I imagine San Francisco would gravitate to this type of player.
Tryon’s counter rushes leave a lot to be desired, as he lacked a plan. That’s what you pay Kris Kocurek for, though. In today’s NFL, get all of the athletes you can on the field. The hope would be you develop Tryon’s hand usage, and he improves his pass-rushing plan with more reps. You can’t coach Tryon’s aggressive mindset.
Rashad Weaver - Pittsburgh
I couldn’t help but think Arik Armstead when watching Weaver. They play the same style. Per Next Gen Stats, Weaver averaged 2.6 seconds on his sacks this past season. Only 31 NFL sacks came in at 2.6 seconds or less at the NFL level. Weaver may not have the same first step as others, but he knows how to win and finish.
Weaver ran a 4.85 40-yard dash and only had a vertical of 32”, but his 3-cone of 6.95 impressed at 6’4”, 265 pounds. I mention Armstead as Weaver is in the same mold. He’s a “length, strength, and technique” edge rusher. Weaver is one of the best run defenders at his position. He also is superior to most edge rushers in this class with his hands.
Weaver could be the type of player who excels inside at defensive tackle on passing downs, much like Armstead. I like him a lot and would love him at pick No. 43.
Joseph Ossai - Texas
If the 49ers are betting on upside and coaching, then Ossai would be the selection in the second round. He just turned 21-years old, and ran a 4.63 40-yard dash, and had a 41” vertical. Tackles for loss are more predictive than sacks, and Ossai had 17 TFL’s this past season and 14.5 in 2019.
He’s the closest thing to Dee Ford, and his speed rush around the edge in this draft. Ossai is that explosive, but there is a lot of projection to his game. Ossai’s effort won’t be questioned, but he doesn’t look like a player who knows what he’s doing. If Ossai doesn’t win around the edge with speed, he’s probably not going to win the rep.
Too often, Ossai would rush straight into the offensive tackle. When they got their hands on him, that was all she wrote. The raw skills are there, as are the motor and physicality, but he’s more of a projection than Tryon.