Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The impact John Lynch believes Drake Jackson will have on the 49ers defense

May 3, 2022 at 12:51 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers' first selection of the 2022 NFL Draft didn't come until day two on Friday. Thanks to last year's trade package to move up to select quarterback Trey Lance, the team lacked a first-round pick.

When the Niners' first selection came around, at No. 61 overall, the team again opted to bolster its defensive line, selecting former USC defensive end Drake Jackson. San Francisco has now used its first selection on a defensive lineman in six of the past eight drafts.

The 49ers have focused a lot on keeping its defensive line well-stocked with talent, believing that making the pass rush a top priority will help every other position on defense.

San Francisco added veteran pass rusher Dee Ford in 2019, just before drafting Nick Bosa, hoping to create an impactful duo that would frustrate opposing offenses. The strategy worked—when Ford was available. However, he missed 31 regular-season games in his three seasons with the team, and general manager John Lynch said in March that he didn't "see a lot of hope" in the 31-year-old pass rusher returning.

Maybe Jackson can develop into that Dee Ford-type force opposite Bosa that the 49ers had initially envisioned. Lynch believes that the rookie's efforts will determine his future role along the defensive line.

"He's stepping into a really deep and talented group, got a lot of really good players," Lynch said Monday on KNBR's Murph & Mac show. "But I can tell you what we envisioned when we drafted him. [It] was that we've been at our best when Dee Ford was healthy. I know it hasn't been much, but when Bosa was rolling, and Dee was opposite of him, we were pretty tough to deal with.

"We've been tough to deal with without Dee as well, but when you have a guy with the ability that Drake has, and that ability is immense, we see something special there. How fast that comes, to what extent, how much he plays, will he play early? I think a lot of that just comes down to how far he can come, how quickly."

It isn't just Jackson's raw talent that has Lynch optimistic about the young defensive lineman's future. The GM also believes in the coaches tasked with getting the most out of defensive linemen.

"We joke about continuing to add to that group," Lynch continued. "It gives us great confidence when you have a guy like [defensive line coach] Kris Kocurek and [assistant defensive line coach] Darryl Tapp. They are so good at their jobs. We know we're going to get the most out of whoever we put in that situation.

"And then when you put a young man with the talent that Drake has in his body, and what he's demonstrated that he can do on a football field, we think the ceiling is extremely high. So we're just excited to add him to the mix."

Jackson, a three-year starter for the Trojans, racked up 12.5 sacks during his collegiate career. He dealt with a weight drop before the 2021 season due to a battle with COVID-19 but still managed five sacks in his junior year, earning a Pro Football Focus grade of 88.3, over 20 points higher than his 2020 grade.

"He is very, very talented," Lynch added. "He's excellent with his hands. He has some power. He has length. And then he has the ability—we call it that second burst. Once you beat your man, how quickly can you burst to that quarterback? He has that. He also has an incredible ability for a guy of his size just to turn corners really quick. ... That's a hard thing for a bigger man to do but Drake does that extremely well.

"So he's got all the makings of a very special pass rusher. He also can play the run well. What that role becomes, we will see. And that's what this offseason will be all about. But we were thrilled to be able to draft him at 61, and he's going to be a great contributor for us."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Lynch below.

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