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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports


Too many question-marks for 49ers to consider Rashan Gary second overall

Jan 30, 2019 at 6:02 PM


The prevailing opinion to this point in the pre-draft process has been that the San Francisco 49ers will be faced with one of two scenarios when they pick second overall in April.

  1. The Arizona Cardinals select Quinnen Williams and the Niners are free to take the best edge rusher in the class in Nick Bosa.
  2. The Cardinals select Bosa and leave San Francisco to debate whether dominant interior force Williams is worth ignoring a need on the outside and passing up on a talent like Kentucky's Josh Allen for.

Bosa, Williams and Allen. Those are the three players most consistently connected with the 49ers so far. However, a different name was thrown into the mix recently by NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah and Lance Zierlein, who each tabbed Michigan's Rashan Gary to San Francisco with the second pick.

Jeremiah frequently insists on his 'Move The Sticks' podcast that his mocks reflect what he is hearing around the league, and any Niners interest in selecting Gary with such a high pick would be seen as curious given his status as one of the more polarizing players in the draft.

Yet even in a strong draft for edge rushers, Gary has obvious appeal. Versatility and athleticism are high on the 49ers' list of priorities, particularly when it comes to defense, and Gary possesses both. He was used on the edge and the interior at Michigan and at 6'5" and 283 pounds, boasts an intriguing blend of size, speed, power and stamina.

Gary's burst off the snap is tremendous, and his power is such that he can knock opposing linemen out of their stances often using just one hand. You see examples of that power in each of the clips below. On the first he sends Ohio State's left tackle to the turf with a vicious bull rush and on the second he is able to drive Penn State's right tackle backwards with just one arm, disengaging and meeting at the quarterback with Jordan Glasgow, who got there just ahead of him.




That power is complemented by an ability to win inside with quickness, which was also on show in the Penn State game in the clip below, as Gary uses an arm over move to beat the tackle to the inside and force Trace McSorley from the pocket.



And when he puts his burst, power and quickness together the results can be magnificent. Here, in the Wolverines' 2017 game with Florida, Gary explodes off the snap, flings the left tackle out of his path and, in the same movement, uses his quickness to change direction and pressure the quarterback.



The problem Gary has, however, is that instances where he has put it all together have been far too few and far between. His production – 9.5 sacks in three seasons – pales in comparison to that of the other top pass rushers in the class and is reflective of a player who has demonstrated a lack of consistency when it comes to transforming speed to power, with too many plays ending like the one below against Notre Dame, where Gary reacts superbly to the snap but ends up being a non-factor as the lineman is able to comfortably hold his ground.



His inconsistency when fronting up offensive linemen is amplified by Gary's struggles to bend around the corner when deployed on the edge. That kind of flexibility simply does not appear to be a trait he possesses, with the below plays from games with Ohio State and Florida excellent examples of how that has made his life as an edge rusher more difficult, with both tackles able to force him behind the quarterback despite Gary initially putting them in trouble with his burst.




There remains plenty to like about Gary's game. He is an excellent run defender who logged 23 tackles for loss in three seasons, reads option plays very well and does a superb job of setting the edge. Lack of effort will also not be a concern for Gary, with the blend of his athleticism and the intensity he brings on a snap-to-snap basis leading to eye-catching plays such as the one below against Florida, on which he does an excellent job of making a lineman miss with a swim move, hunting down the ball-carrier and limiting a screen pass to a minimal gain.



Gary also already has some pass-rush moves in his locker. The swim is a clear part of his repertoire, and he has had success with the rip move, which he used when running this stunt to beat now-Cincinnati Bengal Billy Price and deliver a quarterback hit on J.T. Barrett.



Yet instances where Gary uses these moves to create pressure are far outweighed by ones where he has no answer to when his initial rush stalls. Counter moves are not something he has developed at this stage of his career and Gary's tape appears to be that of a player who does not approach pass rushing with a plan of attack.

Between his athleticism, his power, his run-stopping ability and the obvious dedication with which he plays, Gary checks a lot of the boxes for a potential first-rounder. However, the reality is that he is a player without a defined best position, having been unable to produce at an elite level either on the edge or inside, and will need to land with a coaching staff with a clear plan in place for him and a team blessed with experienced rushers who can help hone his game.

The 49ers are not that team. They have a dearth of outside rushers and need an edge player who can come in and instantly transform their pass defense. In that regard Gary does not fit the bill and, while he is worthy of first-round consideration, the prospect of taking him second overall ahead of a player of the caliber of Bosa or Williams is not one the 49ers front office should entertain.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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