The 49ers have signed nine new faces this offseason. General Manager John Lynch has given defensive line coach Kris Kocurek reinforcements with new additions in Hasan Ridgeway and Kemoko Turay coupled with a familiar face in Kerry Hyder Jr.
San Francisco’s roster may not put fear in Super Bowl favorites as of now but bolstering the EDGE position gives the defense flexibility going into the draft. Kocurek’s Wide-9 front has had good fortune with players stepping up after key injuries recently hobbled the team. Strengthening the line gives the deep position group extra insurance.
A wealthy edge rusher group allows defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans to keep Arik Armstead inside and pair him with third-year defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. Armstead helped anchor the defense to -0.151 Rush EPA (second-best in the league), which directly resulted in him moving inside.
The DT position needed improvement with the Free Agency departure of D.J. Jones. Lynch re-signed Kevin Givens and Maurice Hurst and acquired Ridgeway giving the Niners breathing room at the position entering the Draft.
With that being said, we can revert to the DE group and look at who will start across from Pro Bowler Nick Bosa.
Edges on the roster; Nick Bosa, Samson Ebukam, Charles Omenihu, Kerry Hyder, Kemoko Turay, and Jordan Willis— Who will start across from Bosa?
Getting Dee Ford back as a situational pass-rusher would be a dream next season. He may have the best bend the around the corner on the roster. Unfortunately, Ford looks to be cut after June 1st. His chronic back injuries dating back to his college days at Auburn have sidelined him one too many times.
San Francisco's EDGE group has several tweener players (Ebukam, Omenihu, Hyder, and Armstead) that can bump inside for third-and-long. My main concern with the DE group is the lack of explosiveness/ ability to bend. 4-3 defensive ends are usually on the heavier side in comparison to a stand-up 3-4 outside linebacker.
This is where Turay could shock the team during camp and earn a starting role by showing he can play the run and pass together while staying healthy after a sleigh of injuries dating back to his college days at Rutgers.
What Kemoko Turay brings to the Niners' defense
Turay has 29 quarterback hits in 38 NFL career games, but he's only started in thee of them. However, his first step constantly helps him put pressure on the QB. 22 pressures, 5.5 sacks, and a 13.4% Pass-Rush Pressure Percentage (which ranked higher than Frank Clark and Demarcus Lawerence) headlined Turay’s career year last season.
His role will grow if he can break the mold of a situational pass-rusher. Don’t expect TUray to be an Arden Key replacement, though. Only eight of his 221 pass-rushing snaps came inside with the Colts last season. This leaves room for the 49er to comfortably draft a defensive end who is strong against the run and can bend and finish at the QB for a sack.
4 EDGES from the 2022 NFL draft that can play in a Wide-9 front.
- DeAngelo Malone - Western Kentucky
“At 6’4, 240 pounds, Malone has the combination of length and weight to excel in a role off the edge at the next level. Malone can win as both a speed and power rusher, displaying a deep bag of pass-rushing moves to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbaks.”
- David Anenih - Houston
Espn’s experts see Aneih as an ideal fit in San Francisco at 220nd overall.
Anenih also has definite twitch with his movement. He’s an amped-up athlete with great energy, and his motor runs hot through the snap. He has good pursuit speed and has shown he can drop in coverage. Anenih has the athleticism to contain quarterbacks in pursuit, and he also has the lateral agility to stunt gaps and manipulate rushing angles.
- Kinglsey Enagbare - South Carolina
Enagbare lead the SEC in pass rush win rate among defensive linemen despite not having a deep pass-rush repertoire. He works in unison with his hands and feet to defeat offensive lineman. He can continue to develop as a pass-rusher with Niners Kocurek.
- Joshua Paschal- Kentucky
Pachal is the Niners’ ideal edge given their previous draft and free agency acquisitions at defensive end. Pachal is on the heavier side (268 ILBS), but he plays with great pad level, can line up in different spots
Having six defensive ends makes you think if Lynch and company are still in on drafting an edge with one of their first three selections in this year's draft.
The 49ers should draft an edge after they address the safety position. The tweeners on the roster leave explosiveness to be desired, and Turay may not hold up against the run.
San Francisco is 9.63 million in the hole for cap space, but the “top-51 rule” only accounts for the 51 most expensive contracts against a team's salary cap, leaving the Niners with 1.17 million (Cap space figures from Spotrac.)
At the start of the new NFL league year in early March until the first week of the regular NFL season in September, only the 51 most expensive contracts actually count against a team’s salary cap.
The Niners likely aren't in the market for any of the remaining free agents. Bringing the best scheme fit defensive end makes the most sense to me outside of drafting a box safety with coverage ability.