Yes, you read that headline correctly. Based on recent moves, the San Francisco 49ers could pass on drafting Nick Bosa with the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Bosa has long been believed to be the best pass rushing prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft and most of the top draft experts consider him the best player in the draft overall. How could general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan pass on the complete package of a prospect in Bosa? Well, they might even have a reasonable reason once you dive into the finer details.

The acquisition of Dee Ford would undoubtedly be a very big part of why. It's not just that the 49ers added one of the best edge rushers in the league. It's how they plan to utilize him. Ford played as a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs. He was the wide-9 rusher, which made him a linebacker in the 3-4 defensive system the Chiefs employed.

The 49ers don't run a 3-4 scheme but rather a 4-3. Upon the completion of the trade, many wondered if the 49ers would play Ford in the SAM linebacker position in their defense. This will not be the case. When asked if Ford will be a defensive end, Lynch was succinct in his answer.

"We do," Lynch said at the press conference introducing Ford and Kwon Alexander last week. "That's what we see him as ... he fits the LEO mold perfectly."

This decision has a domino affect on the rest of the defensive line. With the LEO position taken, the 49ers must decide who will serve as the team's other defensive end as well as find a linebacker for the SAM position. If the 49ers draft Bosa, he would fill the "big end" spot as the team's other starting defensive end.

That would create a potential playing time problem for the 49ers incumbent defensive ends. There are four starting defensive line positions. DeForest Buckner will be taking one of the defensive tackle spots and Ford will be taking the LEO defensive end position. Two spots left with Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas and potentially Bosa still unaccounted for. Someone would be the odd man out.

One quote from Shanahan at the Ford and Alexander presser could be interpreted as a clue to the 49ers draft plans.

"We love [Thomas] outside more on run downs, and in passing situations, we want him inside," Shanahan said.

This is the same way he was used last season. If the 49ers plan to utilize Thomas on the outside on run downs, either there's no room for Bosa or the 49ers are benching Thomas in those situations. Maybe Shanahan was blowing smoke as so many NFL people do this time of year.

He could have said the 49ers are evaluating the best way to utilize Thomas. Doing so likely would have gotten a bigger reaction and caused wide speculation the team is undecided on Thomas and may not view him as a good fit anymore.

That last bit may just be true. The 49ers did replace their defensive line coach after the season and new coach Kris Kocurek was immediately tasked with a full review of Thomas.

"I want [Kocurek's] thoughts unbiased ... we all want to see what he says and how he views him," defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said in January at the Senior Bowl. "From there as an organization, we'll do what's best for the organization and put [Thomas] in the best position to be successful."

Maybe he goes back to his natural position of defensive tackle for all downs but then that makes 1. Armstead an expensive backup and 2. what Shanahan said last week a lie. That seems doubtful considering how much of a straight shooter Shanahan normally is.

The 49ers do have an option with the No. 2 pick that keeps Solomon a starter and makes what Shanahan said truthful. If they draft a pass rushing linebacker like Josh Allen, the 49ers would have a rotation that not only makes sense but gets everyone playing time.

On likely run downs, the 49ers will be in their base 4-3 defense. They could configure their defense with Ford, Thomas at defensive end, Armstead, Buckner at defensive tackle, Kwon Alexander as the WILL linebacker, Fred Warner as the MIKE linebacker and Allen at the SAM linebacker.

When facing likely passing situations, Thomas can slide inside, sharing time with Armstead, and Allen can slide up to the defensive end spot vacated by Thomas. The 49ers would be in the nickel formation which only utilizes two linebackers (Warner, Alexander). This gives the 49ers defense some versatility up front.

Still, Bosa is considered the the better and safer prospect. In addition, because the NFL has become a passing heavy league, the 49ers aren't in base defense as often as nickel. That takes the third linebacker out of the formation. With Bosa being a complete defensive end capable of stopping the run and sacking the quarterback, the 49ers can swap between base and nickel easier and faster.

It is a quandary. There is no real wrong answer in my view. Bosa would make the 49ers front four one of the best in the league while Allen fills out the roster better.

If the 49ers do decide to pass on Bosa, they should trade down. Allen could still be there when the 49ers picked at the new slot and if not, someone like Brian Burns likely would be.

Which path the 49ers take may become clear prior to the draft. There are unconfirmed rumors that the 49ers are shopping one of Thomas or Armstead. If a trade does occur in the coming weeks involving one of these two players it should be taken as a sign the 49ers are taking Bosa if available.

However, as it sits now, the 49ers could pass on Bosa at No. 2.
  • Levin T. Black
  • Written by:
    A graduate of Ball State University in 2009, Levin was a full-time sports journalist for a few years until he transitioned into a more lucrative career. He began writing for Webzone in 2018 in order to scratch his journalist itch.