The philosophy for the 49ers is to build this team through the trenches. Whether that means in the draft or free agency, the team is consistently looking to bolster their lines.
Samson Ebukam and Charles Omenihu may leave in free agency, and the team is banking on a jump from Drake Jackson in year two. A reunion with Arden Key is definitely on the table also. The 49ers have two EDGE players on their roster, Nick Bosa and Jackson.
This draft class is deep for defensive linemen. The first two rounds could have 9-12 EDGE defenders drafted. The combine boosted the stock of many players, and teams are continually searching for pass rushers.
The 49ers met with Tennessee’s Byron Young at the combine, but after running a 4.43 40-yard dash and adding an 11-foot broad jump with a 38-inch jump, his stock has shot out of the 49ers range. I wanted to include him badly.
Here are three prospects the 49ers met with at the combine that may be in their range:
Isaiah McGuire, Missouri
While McGuire is a bit raw, he has the length to ward off offensive tackles. His motor is great, and times snaps very well. McGuire has a quick first step and is very fluid.
At 6”4”, McGuire can dip around the edge and has range. His versatility is a bonus. McGuire will need to improve his hands in the pass rush at the next level. Time with Kris Kocurek will be huge in his development.
Over the last two years, McGuire notched 13 sacks, three forced fumbles, and 96 total tackles.
McGuire ran a 4.76 40-yard dash with a 1.72 10-yard split. The 49ers have shown patience with rookie EDGE players, as evidenced by Jackson in 2022. A similar approach may be needed with McGuire.
Ikenna Enechukwu, Rice
Enechukwu is a high-effort pass rusher. At 6’4” and 264 pounds, Enechukwu can still add weight to his frame. His awareness is a plus, but his effort is what stands in each play.
Totaling 11 sacks, two forced fumbles, 30 solo tackles, and 86 total tackles over two years for Rice after playing one snap in his freshman year and 337 snaps in his second year suggests a leap.
Running a 4.70 40-yard dash isn’t elite, and Enechukwu must add to his pass-rush moves in the NFL. The 49ers are most likely enamored with his effort and believe they can take his game to the next level.
Dante Stills, West Virginia
Stills plays with violence and is excellent with his hands. Playing with a high motor and great technique are two of his best qualities. His combine metrics weren’t eye-popping, but his on-field drill work was very smooth.
Stills profiles as a Sunday player who makes plays without flashy workout numbers. If he adds secondary moves to his pass-rush bag, he can be a force.
As a four-star recruit out of Fairmount High School, Stills immediately contributed in his freshman year with three sacks, two forced fumbles, and 12 solo tackles. In 2022, Stills finished with 26 total tackles, 13 solo tackles, two forced fumbles, and five sacks.
After the top prospects, many prospects aren’t as polished. Considering the 49ers’ track record of betting on traits they like, it’s not hard to envision a leap from anyone they target on the defensive line.