On Thursday, we went through what an all-NFC-West offense would look like. We only found three spots for 49ers players. Let’s see if that’s any different today when we do the same for defense, as San Francisco is much stronger on the defensive side of the ball.
Edge - Nick Bosa, 49ers
In what was essentially one game against an offense that prides itself on getting the ball out quickly with a quarterback who runs a sub 4.5 40-yard dash, Bosa still managed three QB hits, one knockdown, and four total pressures.
This came after a rookie season where Bosa had seven sacks in his first seven games, despite not having a full training camp. Bosa is already one of the best pass rushers in the NFL and he’s played one season. That’s how special of a talent he is.
Edge - Leonard Floyd, Rams
Floyd had the best season of his young career and was rewarded this offseason with a four-year contract that gave Floyd $64 million.
Floyd finished 2020 with 10.5 sacks and 19 QB hits, to go along with 48 total pressures. His athleticism helped take the Rams defense to another level.
Defensive tackle - Aaron Donald, Rams
He’s the best player in football and we don’t have to spend any more time on Donald, but we will, for fun.
We know that Donald is the focal point of every game-plan. He’s often double and triple teamed. That doesn’t stop him from putting up ridiculous stats every season, and 2020 was no different. Donald had 13.5 sacks and 35, yes, 35 QB hits to go with 67 pressures.
Donald just turned 30, so I wonder how this next part of his career will go and if we see father time catch up to him during the next couple of seasons.
Defensive tackle - J.J. Watt, Cardinals
This could have gone to Benson Mayowa or Arik Armstead, but Watt’s track record wins out. Sure, neither are technically a defensive tackle, but the former two are at their best when they rush from the inside on passing downs.
We’ll see if Watt holds up for 16 games. He did last season, and he remained one of the best defensive lineman in football, despite playing on a miserable Texans team. Don’t let the five sacks fool you, Watt contiously got after the quarterback. Arizona paid him handsomely, but Watt should have a great year for the Cardinals.
Linebacker - Fred Warner, 49ers
On the most recent Shanaplan podcast, we discussed Fred Warner and Darius Leonard, as both linebackers are in line to become the highest paid players at their position. If you were watching these two anecotally, you’d think Warner was playing a different sport. The numbers back that statement up:
Warner - 26.6%
Leonard - 21%
QB Hit rate:
Warner - 16.6%
Leonard - 8.5%
Warner - 4.6
Leonard - 8.7
Average depth per tackle:
Warner - 3.8
Leonard - 4.5
Comp % allowed:
Warner - 52%
Leonard - 85%
If Warner is better than who many perceive to be one of the better linebackers in the NFL, he’s king of the division.
Linebacker - Bobby Wagner, Seahawks
This would be K.J. Wright if he were still on Seattle’s roster. I still cannot believe Wright is unsigned, so I’ll go with his teammate.
Wagner gets all of the accolades, and for good reason. Wagner had 138 tackles, allowed a 60% completion percentage, and was his usual sound self in coverage. He was not the best linebacker on his team, though.
Cornerback - Jalen Ramsey, Rams
See: Donald, Aaron. Ramsey allowed 4.8 yards per target and a 46.7% completion percentage while generally travelling with the best receiver on the other team.
Ramsey is the best cornerback in the NFL and that’s not going to change anytime soon.
Cornerback - Jason Verrett, 49ers
What a year Verrett had in 2020. He allowed 6.5 yards per target, which is pretty dang good if you can get past Ramsey’s numbers. Verrett had five pass breaksups, two interceptions, and only allowed one touchdown all season.
Having a cornerback who you can rely on and know won’t give up the big play makes life so much easier as a defensive coordinator.
Verrett provided some much-needed stability at cornerback for the Niners and was one of the ten best cornerbacks in the NFL. Let’s see what he has in store for 2021. With Bosa back, Verrett could be even better.
Cornerback - Darious Williams, Rams
Ramsey and Williams both bounce back and forth between playing outside and in the slot to keep offenses guessing. Williams allowed a 45% completion rate on 62 targets, while breaking up ten passes and intercepting two passes.
When you have Ramsey on the other side, you’re going to get tested. Williams rose to the occasion and I’d feel comfortable saying he was a top-10 cornerback last season as well.
The most difficult part about cornerback is stringing multiple high-level seasons together. That’s why Ramsey is Ramsey. Let’s see if Williams is more than a one-year wonder.
Safety - Budda Baker, Cardinals
You can’t help but appreciate the way Baker plays the game. He’s 100 miles per hour on every snap. In coverage, he gives up nothing. Against the run, he comes flying up. There’s nothing that Baker doesn’t do at a high level.
Last year was his best season yet, as Baker nearly cut his yards per target in half from the year before, and found a way to break up/intercept more passes, percentage wise, than any season before.
Safety - Jimmie Ward, 49ers
I’d rather have Jimmie Ward than Jamal Adams.
I’m not paying a safety $10 million to blitz on third down. Ward can cover. I cannot say the same for Adams, who allowed a 72% completion percentage for an average of 10.4 yards per recpetion and three touchdowns allowed.
On the same number of targets, Ward gave up 7.3 yards per target and only gave up one score, which was contested. Both players are good run defenders, but it’s a passing league and I trust Ward to play in the post (deep safety) and drop down into the slot as well as blitz.