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49ers’ Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave fall in ESPN D-line rankings

Jul 10, 2024 at 12:44 PM

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Nick Bosa remains one of the NFL's most respected pass rushers, with opposing offenses always needing to account for his presence. The San Francisco 49ers star was ESPN's top-ranked defensive end a year ago, following his 18.5-sack performance in an NFL Defensive Player of the Year campaign.

A slow start last season contributed to a dip in production, with Bosa recording 10.5 sacks. Despite this, it marked his third consecutive season with double-digit quarterback takedowns. However, after setting such a high standard the previous year, Bosa's 2023 performance fell below expectations.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler has been releasing his annual position-by-position rankings, created after surveying nearly 80 league executives, coaches, and scouts to determine the top 10 players at each position.

After earning the top spot last year, Bosa fell three spots to No. 4 in this year's edge rusher ranking, with Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns, T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Micah Parsons ranking higher.

Fowler admits that Bosa probably doesn't deserve to fall that far, noting that the drop in sack production had to be considered.

"But he still possesses all the same qualities that made him No. 1," Fowler added.

Around the NFL, Bosa is still viewed as a dominant force.

"Awesome player -- tough, explosive, can bend, can turn speed to power, plays his a-- off," an AFC executive told Fowler. "Have to account for him all the time."

An NFC coordinator added, "He's one big muscle. Has extreme leverage and power and just has a knack for disruption."

Another 49ers defensive lineman, Javon Hargrave, also saw a drop in his ranking compared to last year, falling five spots to No. 10 on Fowler's list of the top defensive tackles.

Hargrave joined the 49ers with a massive four-year, $84 million free-agent contract after an impressive 11-sack 2022 campaign with the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite earning a solid 86.5 pass-rushing grade from Pro Football Focus in 2023, his seven sacks were his lowest total since 2020. While his run-defense grade saw a marginal improvement last season, it remained at a modest 51.4, indicating room for growth. His 74.9 overall grade was his second-highest in the past four seasons.

In May, when asked about areas for improvement in the upcoming season, Hargrave responded, "I think it's just overall. I feel like I could have won a lot more in the pass rush stuff, and just be better in the run game stuff, and just being in way better shape than I was last year."

Fowler noted, "And while his production dipped slightly in his first season in San Francisco, he's still second among active defensive tackles in sacks over the past three years with 23. Scouts describe him as 'twitchy' and 'powerful.'"

The 49ers will need more from the veteran defensive tackle in 2024 to improve their performance in the trenches.

"He's always had a deep rush toolbox with a good feel to affect the QB," an NFC executive told Fowler. "He was a little quieter when we prepared for him than he was in Philly, but he remains an issue as an interior rusher."
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