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2020 Power Rankings: 49ers Defensive Line

Michael Cataldo
Jun 17, 2020 at 11:35 AM


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Continuing Nick Newman's Power Rankings at Wide Receiver, here's how the 49ers defensive linemen stack up against each other.

Tier 1: Superstars


1. Nick Bosa
Hard to argue this one. Just take a look at the accolades for the rookie sensation:

  • AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year
  • PFWA Rookie of the Year
  • 9 Sacks, 1 FF, 1 INT, 16 TFL
  • Most pressures ever by a rookie (69)
  • #41 on PFF's Top 50 Players


There are not many defensive players you'd take over Nick Bosa to start your franchise with. Don't agree? Hit 'em with the Bosa Shrug!

2. Dee Ford
When Ford missed games in the 2019, production decreased across the entire defense.


Don't forget that Dee Ford recorded 13 sacks on an average Kansas City defense in 2018. Imagine what his numbers would look like in 2020 if plays a full season! With DeForest Buckner gone, Ford will need to step up from leadership, availability, and production standpoints. We should be confident he'll do so.

3. Arik Armstead
What a treat Arik Armstead was last year. While being snubbed from the Pro Bowl, Arik was able to rack up 11 sacks and played in all 16 games for the first time since his rookie year (2015). The key to Armstead was always health, so it was encouraging to see him play 75% of the team's defensive snaps, third to only Buckner and Bosa.

Armstead's size and athleticism are what make him special, and his 5-year, $85M contract speaks volumes about how the front office values his contributions and his potential. Arik's stock is still on the rise.

Tier 2: Impact Players


4. D.J. Jones
You can't ask for much more from a 6th round pick than what D.J. Jones has given to the 49ers. While Jones won't stuff the stat sheet, his impact has been felt when he's on the field. This year, he will be shouldering more of the load with Buckner's absence and he'll rise to the occasion.

Players typically perform up to expectations in contract years, and Jones will be a UFA in 2021. It wouldn't be surprising if D.J. has a breakout season in his contract year that'll earn him a significant payday elsewhere.

5. Javon Kinlaw
Javon is a big dude (6'5'', 311 lbs), but don't let his size fool you. In watching highlights of him at South Carolina, his get-off at the line of scrimmage is outstanding. Kinlaw's frame and power compliments the line perfectly, but it will take him some time to reach his full potential.

Kris Kocurek will get the most out of Kinlaw, but we need to be patient as his talent is very raw. Conversely, the talent surrounding Kinlaw is the strongest he'll likely have in his career which will open up opportunities for him to thrive. Could the 49ers have the Defensive Rookie of the Year in two consecutive years? It's not a longshot.


Tier 3: Rotational Pieces


6. Ronald Blair II
Blair is one of those guys who fans love. You know he gives 110% every time he touches the field and is a favorite among his teammates. Blair could've easily been in Tier 2, but let's see how he looks following an ACL injury.

7. Solomon Thomas
Can this year be the year Solly breaks through? We saw flashes last year, but the consistency hasn't been there yet. To be honest, he hasn't seen the field enough for us to write him off (only played 41% of defensive snaps in 2019). Either way, the writing is on the wall after the 49ers drafted Kinlaw.

We all want to see Solly prove his worth in 2020. Don't forget, Armstead was being viewed the same as Thomas last year...

Tier 4: Roster Depth


8. Kerry Hyder
The 29-year-old adds experience on a very young defensive line as the second oldest behind Dee Ford. Hyder's most impressive year came in 2016 with Detroit, where he sacked the quarterback eight times. His short stint with Dallas in 2019 drew enough attention from the San Francisco front office to sign him to a one-year deal.

9. Jullian Taylor
Jullian Taylor could slip into the Sheldon Day role by the start of the regular season. Taylor did miss time in 2019 with elbow issues and then suffered an ACL tear in a late December practice. His role as an interior lineman was slowly evolving and hopefully he can pick up where he left off.

10. Kentavius Street
The former 4th rounder was only able to be on the field for 3 games after being promoted from the practice squad before Week 14. Like Taylor, Street's familiarity with the system should secure his roster spot barring injury.

Tier 5: Training Camp Hopefuls


Alex Barrett, Kevin Givens, Willie Henry Jr., Jonathan Kongbo, Darion Daniels (UFA)
With the roster expanding from 53 to 55, Shanahan/Saleh would most likely use one of the extra spots for defensive line depth. This means that one or possibly two guys in Tier 5 can work their way on the final roster in Week 1.

Prediction: Jonathan Kongbo
Out of the all the defensive linemen in Tier 5, Kongbo is the most likely to earn a roster spot. The 49ers need more depth on the edges, and Kongbo fits the mold as he was even drafted #5 in the 1st Round of the 2019 CFL Draft out of Tennessee. Jonathan hustles to the ball even if the play is downfield, and the 49ers will notice it in training camp.
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.


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