For the most part, the 49ers have done a great job of drafting over the past few years. There have been some head scratchers (A.J. Jenkins?) and some that just haven't panned out, but that is life in the NFL. Find me a team that hits 100% on every pick every year and I will buy you a steak dinner. What the 49ers have been doing over the past few seasons in drafting guys that they don't intend to play for at least a year seems almost a genius move. But it is also the benefit of having such a deep team at the current moment. Some teams simply don't have that option as they have to fill needs now. However, if the moves the 49ers have taken begin to pan out over the next few seasons, I think you will find more and more teams following suit by taking "redshirt" guys that they intend to play in the future.
One player that fits this mold is Rookie 5th round pick Aaron Lynch. The rookie has been one of the best players on the field when he plays in this exhibition season. Granted, he has played against the backups for the most part, but his stats in those games show that this kid might just have the talent to anchor one of the 49ers outside linebacker positions for years to come.
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As a highly recruited Florida prep player, he played 12 games as a true freshman for Notre Dame, and recorded 33 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks with two passes batted and one forced fumble. Unhappy and citing a need to play closer to home, Lynch transferred to South Florida where he sat out his sophomore season due to NCAA rules. As a junior at South Florida he tallied 29 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and five sacks with one pass batted in 12 games (10 starts) in 2013.
While his stat sheet isn't mind blowing this preseason, his best game came against the Chargers this past Sunday where he recorded three tackles, his first career sack and two pass breakups, batting down a pair of Charger passes at the line of scrimmage. One of these batted passes turned into an interception by fellow rookie Jimmie Ward.
There is no doubt that Lynch is a raw talent that has a lot of question marks around him. His draft scouting report indicates that he is the classic underachiever that often struggles with weight. However the one bright spot of the report provided by NFL.com is that he could benefit from a strong veteran position coach, much like the 49ers have in Jim Tomsula.
It remains to be seen what Lynch will give the 49ers this season, however there is little doubt that he will be given a chance to play at least in some situations with Aldon Smith looking at a suspension and if the 49ers continue to rotate players along the line as they did last year. It will be interesting to see how he fills in for Ahmed Brooks against top tier talent. If Lynch can give the 49ers 20-30 tackles and 1-3 sacks in his rookie season the 49ers would be very happy with that output in a backup role.