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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Could Pass on Nick Bosa in NFL Draft

Levin T. Black
Mar 18, 2019 at 1:33 PM

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.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Frank
    I'd ask Bosa supporters one question...what player can elevate the defense the most? For me, the answer's pretty's QW. Why? Several reasons, the first of which is he can help plug the middle of the DL, which opponents have been gouging for too many years now. Secondly, he'll help Buckner collapse the pocket, creating lanes for Ford and the other PR Lynch acquires. His addition would create the best DL we've had since the Harbaugh era under Fangio. Just too much to pass up.
    Mar 20, 2019 at 9:40 AM
  • Tone B
    QW is the pick- explosive, smart, requires double teams, can play 3t/1t Bosa- hype machine, injury prone, will make business decisions, already have defo and ford Allen- paper stats guy, youtube "Josh allen vs", he shouldnt even be in this discussion. DK metcalf... really? hakeem butler, taller, quicker, can get him in the 2nd
    Mar 19, 2019 at 8:34 AM
  • mexicans4bosa
    draft bosa, margo can suck a fat d1ck with his "generational talent" bs
    Mar 19, 2019 at 1:47 AM
  • Randy Rapaport
    For all those whom want the 49ers to go with Quinnen Williams with there first pick: Niners already have three (3) players Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas and Kentavius Street that they have invested heavily in for this one inside position you want to pick up Quinnen Williams for. This position is already covered. Move on!
    Mar 18, 2019 at 11:03 PM
  • Margo
    Quinnen Williams is the only generational talent in this draft. He has perennial All Pro talent. Bosa has a slow first step and short arms. He'll get swallowed up by quality tackles, but still get sacks against bad ones, netting 10 sacks a year and making people think he is better than he is. QW will be the second best interior linemen in the entire NFL by year three.
    Mar 18, 2019 at 9:53 PM
  • Chris
    Bosa does have a high ceiling, but I would NOT say he is a surefire generational talent PREdraft. He may end up being that. He's basically not played football in a year when the season starts. I think Allen drops in this draft. I watched some of his college tape and he made some plays, but on a lot of plays you will see him jump around blocks, not set the edges and turn plays inside. That gets a defense gashed in the NFL. Go watch Kentucky give up huge runs with him way out of position. I like a trade down if the team gets good value. If they can pick up some first/second day picks this and next year, trading down a few picks to be able to get Sweat is my choice. Stands out at Senior bowl week, has a good combine and played top college competition.
    Mar 18, 2019 at 8:54 PM
  • LKJ
    Don't be surprise if the 49ers pick Q Williams
    Mar 18, 2019 at 7:26 PM
  • Randy Rapaport
    Niners must not trade back! Bolsa is the only pick that should be made if available at #2. If not then they should take the linebacker Josh Allen. These are the sure picks to fill the needs of the 49ers. No need to get cute here; and have regrets for the next decade from any other action. There are no sure cornerbacks or safeties this year. I think these positions need to be filled with free agents or possibly get lucky with a pick that works out in the 2nd round. It is a shot in dark to obtain multiple pick in the first round hoping to get a lock down starting cornerback for the years to come.
    Mar 18, 2019 at 7:18 PM
  • Zipit
    How is Bosa once in a decade player?? Wheres the production? Q William's and Metcalf are generational talents
    Mar 18, 2019 at 5:42 PM
  • M Croft
    If you think Bosa is too small, slow, whatever, read this: the 49ers WILL NOT PASS ON HIM!
    Mar 18, 2019 at 5:20 PM
  • Daniners
    GB below is spot on. Stop overthinking this. Always take BPA, and not need in first couple picks. After that, it's fine. That's means it's Bosa or Q, Allen isn't even in the same league. Every talent evaluator will say exact same thing. Not hearing a lot from scouts drool over Allen.
    Mar 18, 2019 at 4:34 PM
  • BW
    Put down the crack pipe! Bosa is a once in a decade player. Having five good linemen gives them depth and fresh bodies to rotate in. This is the dumbest article I've read in awhile, but then it is US AWAY!
    Mar 18, 2019 at 4:33 PM
  • Paul
    Dee Ford isn't LT. Draft Bosa, Allen, or Williams, or I'll water board Lynch.
    Mar 18, 2019 at 4:29 PM
  • ski
    Click bate
    Mar 18, 2019 at 3:32 PM
  • Lord Gains
    I would take Quinnen Williams or Allen but not slow first step alligator arms Bosa. Bosa is the least productive out the 3, injury prone and overrated. Allen can play SAM, 5 tech, 6 tech or 9 tech. QW can play NOSE and 0 tech, 3 tech, 5 tech if he wants to. Bosa ? hmmm.
    Mar 18, 2019 at 3:19 PM
  • GB
    Just take the freaking BPA. Which will be Bosa if AZ or whoever pick Murray or Q, or it will be Q if AZ take Bosa. If AZ take Bosa, a good trade down should be available though. Someone bring the draft round quickly.
    Mar 18, 2019 at 3:19 PM
  • DJL
    Take Quennin Williams. Trade both Armstead and Thomas. Both should never have been first round picks. Their production during their careers so far has been below average. Bosa's ceiling is virtually already reached. Yes, he has power and good hip flex but he's got one of the slowest first steps of edge rushers in the draft and short arms - the worst combo you can have as an edge rusher at this level - see Soloman Thomas. He'll look good on some plays and disapear on others. That can't happen with a top-five pick. The Niners already swung and missed with Thomas, they can't afford to do it again. I like Allen but he's very raw. At least half his sacks last year were unimpeded to the QB, i.e. he didn't have a blocker in front of him. Guy has skills but will take a few years. I think QW could be another Reggie White. Strength, explosion, technique already, and smarts. Him next to Buckner will collapse virtually every pocket they face. The Niners are looking for more QB pressure, who says it has to come from the outside?
    Mar 18, 2019 at 3:03 PM
  • DJ
    There is no way I'm passing up Bosa for Josh Allen. Josh Allen is just not in that same tier as Bosa and Q.Williams.
    Mar 18, 2019 at 2:57 PM
  • thepoint
    If KS thinks Metcalf can be as good or better than Julio Jones, than he will be the pick at 2. They can sign Houston if they are not sold on Thomas. Metcalf looks like a hall of fame player if he stays healthy. Seriously
    Mar 18, 2019 at 2:54 PM
  • mbniner
    Here's another possibility. Trade Thomas, sign Houston and draft Q. Williams. Our DL would be Ford, Buckner, Williams, Houston on passing downs. That's a potent line! We have quality rotational DL in Armstead, Day, Jones and Street. We still would need an OLB in the draft. Many people think that Williams is the best player in the draft and pairing him with Buckner would be awesome.
    Mar 18, 2019 at 2:30 PM

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