The 49ers' pass rush boasted power, speed, and technicians at their peak. We’ve yet to see a four-man rush better than the 2019 unit that featured Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, and Dee Ford.
That unit got after the quarterback at an astonishing rate when Ford was on the field. As you know, Ford only had 170 pass-rush snaps during the regular season in ‘19. That would be the most he saw the field during his Niners tenure.
Ford wasn’t always a finished product before his injury. His pre-draft scouting report projected Ford to be a backup/special-teamer who would get drafted in the fourth or fifth round.
Ford was thought of as a “snap jumper.” He was also supposed to be a lousy run defender who only could win with speed. There are similarities between Ford and the 49ers' second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Drake Jackson. Both players finished well above average in the vertical jump, showing off explosiveness.
Bending around the edge and winning with his first step is a trait Jackson possesses that you cannot teach:
One of the primary differences between Jackson and Ford was their ages when they entered the league. After coming off a promising Senior Bowl, Ford was 23 and thought of as a finished product. Despite playing three years at USC, Jackson is 21 and far from a player who has reached his ceiling.
Getting to see how Jackson adjusts to his playing weight and learning how to win again at 270-plus pounds is something to watch. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler got the reactions from NFL executives for each team and their draft. The quote for the Niners was about Jackson’s weight:
San Francisco got an intriguing edge-rush weapon on late second-rounder Drake Jackson, who generated pressure on 15% of opponents’ dropbacks at Southern California, top 20 in the FBS. He lined up mostly as an edge rusher but also took snaps at linebacker, defensive tackle and even corner.
“He could end up turning into a really good player,” an AFC exec said of the Niners’ No. 61 overall selection. “Talented dude. Weight stuff was the biggest narrative — up and down a bit. Once he settles in, matures a bit, he has a chance to be good player.”
Jackson’s weight fluctuated from 254 pounds to 273 pounds during the draft process to accommodate different styles of drills at the combine and his pro day. The 49ers already ranked tied for fifth best with 48 sacks last season, and now they get their Dee Ford replacement.
There’s the Ford connection. If Jackson can give the team a fraction of what Ford brought to the table, while one of the offseason additions such as Kemoko Turay or perhaps a young returning edge rusher like Charles Omenihu can morph into the “Arden Key role,” it won’t matter who is at safety.
Jackson generating pressure at a 15% clip despite not having an arsenal of pass rush moves or the strength to use a bull-rush should be viewed as a good sign. At his age, Jackson will take a year or two before we know the type of player the 49ers are getting.