Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

PFF: Harold Landry of Boston College can help the 49ers defense flourish

Mar 23, 2018 at 10:17 AM--

Steve Palazzolo and Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus sat down and discussed, among other things, the San Francisco 49ers' draft outlook. After evaluating the 49ers' offseason moves thus far, the duo shifted focus to discuss what the team should do with the ninth-overall pick in next month's draft.

A pure pass rusher was among the 49ers' top needs heading into the offseason. In 2017, the defensive unit accumulated just 30 total sacks. That was good enough to tie the Miami Dolphins for 26th in the league. Elvis Dumervil, who led the defense with 6.5 sacks, is no longer with the team.

"Even though they've drafted first-round defensive linemen the last three years, I still think that true edge defender has to be on the to-do list when it comes to the draft, picking at number nine overall," Palazzolo said.

While the 49ers have used their top selections over the past three drafts to address the defensive line, Monson points out that they have all essentially been the same player – an interior defender. Arik Armstead was selected in 2015, DeForest Buckner in 2016, and Solomon Thomas in 2017. While Buckner has remained inside, the 49ers have experimented with Armstead and Thomas on the edges.

"They drafted Solomon Thomas last year," Monson said. "We looked at that, and we asked, 'How are they going to get these three guys on the field at the same time because they're all effectively the same position?' The only answer is, they either didn't do it or they got Solomon Thomas to play on the edge where he just is not his best. He struggled as a rookie. A lot of that was basically being played out of position. He's not able to bring that kind of speed, edge rush that they need, and I think the team recognizes that.

"They're going to have to kick him back inside and figure out some kind of rotation to get him, Buckner, and Arik Armstead on the field at the same time, and they'll find that edge rusher in the draft. I think they're pretty well positioned to do it."

Pro Football Focus isn't as high on NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb as most draft analysts. However, Palazzolo and Monson believe Chubb being selected early might benefit the 49ers because it would mean a player like defensive end and pass rusher Harold Landry of Boston College, who they love, might fall to them at the ninth spot.

"He looks like the best pure edge rusher in this draft," Monson said. "(He's) a guy who can legitimately bring the pressure."

Palazzolo liked a Landry-to-49ers scenario as well.

"That would be a nice fit," Palazzolo said. "That gives Thomas the ability to kick inside, like you said. Now we're talking about a nickel package that's DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas coming in the middle, Harold Landry coming off the edge, Reuben Foster at linebacker, (Richard) Sherman on the back end. Now there are some stars or potential stars on this Niners defense."

You can watch their entire 49ers 'State of the Franchise' breakdown below.

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