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Weak 3-4 DE class?

I don't really see a lot of value at the DE position in this draft. I know the Margus Hunt fans will disagree, but there just doesn't seem to be a lot there. There are a few options, but most of the primary DE will either be gone before the Niners pick, or they are better as 4-3 DT.

Likely gone:
Star Lotulelei
Sharrif Floyd

Possible options:
Jesse Williams (3-4 NT?)
Johnathan Hankins
Datone Jones (undersized?)
Sylvester Williams (4-3 DT?)

Developmental players
Margus Hunt (ugh)
William Gholston

Late round projects
Kwame Geathers
T.J. Barnes
Dave Kruger
Baker Steinkuhler
Spencer Nealy
Brandon Moore
A.J. Francis
Quinton Dial
William Campbell



No question the Niners need a starting NT, which seems to be the real strength of this DL draft. Maybe they should focus on NT, draft a developmental DE in the mid to late rounds, and sign a VET/FA this year. If they can find a gem later in the draft, they got great value. If not, next years 3-4 DE class looks pretty solid, maybe they focus on that position with a high pick next year?
I agree, I don't see much depth at 3-4 DE. I'd rather they focus on adding a CB, S or WR rather than forcing a pick just to get a DE.
But i thought this is a strong DL class.
One can only hope a vet like Seymour is willing to take a discount and a reduced role for a chance to win it all. If not, I'm sure we'll sign a cheap lineman or two for depth, but I only see a guy like RJF maybe 50/50 on returning.
Originally posted by pdizo916:
But i thought this is a strong DL class.

Strong DL class, not the same thing as a strong class for 3-4 DE's. Lots of talent in this draft if you're a 4-3 team looking for a DT.
Is Sheldon Richardson a poor fit for the system? Based on the scouting I've read, surprised not to see him on your list.
  • buck
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Originally posted by Phoenix49ers:
Originally posted by pdizo916:
But i thought this is a strong DL class.

Strong DL class, not the same thing as a strong class for 3-4 DE's. Lots of talent in this draft if you're a 4-3 team looking for a DT.

There does seem to be some good depth for 3-4 nose tackles in this draft.

Our most immediate need on the defensive line is nose tackle, not defensive end.

Originally posted by buck:
Originally posted by Phoenix49ers:
Originally posted by pdizo916:
But i thought this is a strong DL class.

Strong DL class, not the same thing as a strong class for 3-4 DE's. Lots of talent in this draft if you're a 4-3 team looking for a DT.

There does seem to be some good depth for 3-4 nose tackles in this draft.

Our most immediate need on the defensive line is nose tackle, not defensive end.

Disagree it's our most immediate need. It seems like all you really need to play NT in our system is size and strength--you don't even have to be a good player. Sopoaga was one of PFF's worst graded players both in pass rush and run stopping.

We have plenty of cheap veteran options at NT. We could probably re-sign Sopoaga at a smaller salary than he's been on. Or we could retain RJF. Heck, I think Franklin is a FA again. Worse comes to worst, we can probably get one in the draft without spending a premium (top three rounds) pick on it.

I think DE is a more "immediate" need because (1) the importance of Justin Smith to our scheme, (2) he's in the twilight of his career, and (3) our only real hope of replicating him is with blue chip talent. Sure, we could wait until next year because he's coming back, but we need to take every shot we can get.
Originally posted by LieutKaffee:
Is Sheldon Richardson a poor fit for the system? Based on the scouting I've read, surprised not to see him on your list.


Probabably a bit of an oversight, but I think he'll be long gone, AND I don't think he's a good fit for the 3-4.
I want to preface this by saying that I completely agree that this doesn't look to be a strong class for 3-4 DEs. I've always put a lot of stock into height-weight-speed because I'm not a professional talent evaluator and I don't have tape to watch players, so combine numbers and measurables have always been something I go by because it's one of the few sources of reliable information available (...ok, reliable may not be the BEST term but I think you get the point). I know Baalke is influenced by Parcells and I know Parcells places more weight than your average talent evaluator on measurable and H-W-S. So I think in terms of the "ideal" or prototypical 3-4 DE only a few players meet the characteristics in terms of measurables. Sharrif Floyd and Sheldon Richardson will be gone and out of trade reach, but both those players seem to fit the bill, even if they may be even better fits as 3-techs. Datone is probably the next best in terms of a pure 3-4 DE, but he's not going to be a Justin Smith level player, which is fine. He seems to project to a Ray McDonald or Darnell Docket caliber DE in my eyes. Good to great but not elite. At 31 or maybe a few slots up he would be a strong selection. After Jones though I don't see many players with the right body type for the 3-4 end as we currently play it (both Ray Mac and Cowboy are sub-300 lbs.) Obviously Hankins, Star and Jesse are all solid prospects, but I see all of them as projecting to better fits as NT because I doubt their ability to provide consistent interior pass rush on passing downs like we see from Justin and Ray. I think Jones fits better as an interior rusher from the nickel than even an "elite" prospect like Star. I see very little pass rush in Williams game, and very little finishing in Hankins - he's disruptive, but can't finish like Ray or Justin. Though all the aforementioned players I'd be happy to have, especially Hankins because I think he has tremendous upside and versatility.

Either way though, I got sidetracked like usual, measurables only have so much to do with it. A couple years ago Corey Liuget was pegged as "only" an interior lineman because of his lack of arm length and he has become a great 3-4 DE for the Chargers. They also nailed it with Reyes (too bad for them AJ Smith only seemed to have an eye for DE talent...) Sometimes, you just have to throw the prototype out the window and take the best available football player regardless of scheme. For us that may mean taking a guy like Kawann Short or Sylvester Williams regardless of their perceived limitations in our system.

Let me finish by saying that I absolutely love William Gholston. He is one of the few players in this draft that projects perfectly into the prototype for a 3-4 DE from a H-W-S perspective (He adds 10 lbs to that massive frame and he's ready). He is already a strong player against the run, so in my mind he is at least a 2 down contributor early in his career with the chance to develop a stronger pass rush under Tomsula. Worse comes to worse we get a solid rotational guy in the mid-rounds. Ideally though he develops into a starter a la Ray Mac. I would love to see Datone in the first and Gholston with our late, or possible compensatory third. That'd put the End position in a good place for at least a few more seasons.
[ Edited by 2Legit2Quit on Mar 4, 2013 at 11:19 PM ]
Originally posted by LieutKaffee:
Originally posted by buck:
Originally posted by Phoenix49ers:
Originally posted by pdizo916:
But i thought this is a strong DL class.

Strong DL class, not the same thing as a strong class for 3-4 DE's. Lots of talent in this draft if you're a 4-3 team looking for a DT.

There does seem to be some good depth for 3-4 nose tackles in this draft.

Our most immediate need on the defensive line is nose tackle, not defensive end.

Disagree it's our most immediate need. It seems like all you really need to play NT in our system is size and strength--you don't even have to be a good player. Sopoaga was one of PFF's worst graded players both in pass rush and run stopping.

We have plenty of cheap veteran options at NT. We could probably re-sign Sopoaga at a smaller salary than he's been on. Or we could retain RJF. Heck, I think Franklin is a FA again. Worse comes to worst, we can probably get one in the draft without spending a premium (top three rounds) pick on it.

I think DE is a more "immediate" need because (1) the importance of Justin Smith to our scheme, (2) he's in the twilight of his career, and (3) our only real hope of replicating him is with blue chip talent. Sure, we could wait until next year because he's coming back, but we need to take every shot we can get.


Look at teams that have been successful with a 3-4, Pittsburgh, NE, etc. They have had anchors at NT for a long time, I.E. Casey Hampton, Vince Wilfork. I think the Niners have been able to get by without a dominant NT, but I also strongly believe that if they have a change to get an impact player in the middle, they MUST take them. In fact, if they get the chance, I'd love to see them take Jesse Williams and Brandon Williams.

IMHO, the 3-4 is all about overwhelming the oline at the point of attack so that the LB can run free in the back field. The reason that Justin Smith is so valuable is because of his ability to almost single handedly dominate one side of the line. But his ability to create pressure on his own started to slow down last year, especially after the injury. Collapsing the pocket from the NT position will alleviate pressure on Justin, which will allow him to extend the duration of his ability to dominate one side of the line, which will...create opportunities for the LB.

A dominate NT is a definate must in this system to prolong the career of the DE and the play making ability of the LB corp.
Originally posted by Butter:
Look at teams that have been successful with a 3-4, Pittsburgh, NE, etc. They have had anchors at NT for a long time, I.E. Casey Hampton, Vince Wilfork. I think the Niners have been able to get by without a dominant NT, but I also strongly believe that if they have a change to get an impact player in the middle, they MUST take them. In fact, if they get the chance, I'd love to see them take Jesse Williams and Brandon Williams.

IMHO, the 3-4 is all about overwhelming the oline at the point of attack so that the LB can run free in the back field. The reason that Justin Smith is so valuable is because of his ability to almost single handedly dominate one side of the line. But his ability to create pressure on his own started to slow down last year, especially after the injury. Collapsing the pocket from the NT position will alleviate pressure on Justin, which will allow him to extend the duration of his ability to dominate one side of the line, which will...create opportunities for the LB.

A dominate NT is a definate must in this system to prolong the career of the DE and the play making ability of the LB corp.


I second this. 49ers have been getting by with poverty NT's for far too long. They need a physically dominant guy that can repeatedly demand multiple blockers. Doesn't need to be a strong pass rusher necessarily, just someone who can anchor the line, hold their own and stuff the run up the middle. Soap struggled mightily at times last year and I think that someone like Jesse Williams would be a nice addition as primarily an NT, but also someone who can slide over to DE. Brandon Williams would also be a great choice in the 2nd round.
  • buck
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Originally posted by LieutKaffee:
Disagree it's our most immediate need. It seems like all you really need to play NT in our system is size and strength--you don't even have to be a good player. Sopoaga was one of PFF's worst graded players both in pass rush and run stopping.

We have plenty of cheap veteran options at NT. We could probably re-sign Sopoaga at a smaller salary than he's been on. Or we could retain RJF. Heck, I think Franklin is a FA again. Worse comes to worst, we can probably get one in the draft without spending a premium (top three rounds) pick on it.

I think DE is a more "immediate" need because (1) the importance of Justin Smith to our scheme, (2) he's in the twilight of his career, and (3) our only real hope of replicating him is with blue chip talent. Sure, we could wait until next year because he's coming back, but we need to take every shot we can get.

First, we may have a problem of semantics with the word immediate.

We do not have a starting nose tackle. We need to get a starting nose tackle for the upcoming year.
That need is immediate.

Conversely, we have two starting defensive ends. We do not need to draft a defensive end to start next year.
The need for a defensive end is less immediate.

Less Immediate does not mean less critical or less important; it means less close in time or space.

Second, I never made any mention of how to meet team needs. I do not care the method that we use to meet our needs.

Third, Besides Soapoaga and RJF, who are the plenty of cheap vetern options at nose tackle.

Fourth, good luck replicating Justin Smith. Justin Smith is unique.
[ Edited by buck on Mar 5, 2013 at 12:16 AM ]
Its a strong NT class IMO, and i feel strongly that we should draft one early.

DE, its mostly projects. I would like to add a couple, either useing a couple of pics, or targeting UDFA's and hopefully strike gold with one.
Originally posted by IdahoNiner:
Its a strong NT class IMO, and i feel strongly that we should draft one early.

DE, its mostly projects. I would like to add a couple, either useing a couple of pics, or targeting UDFA's and hopefully strike gold with one.

Gotta go diving in that discount bin and see what you come up with.