In 2015, the 49ers selected defensive lineman Arik Armstead with their top pick in the NFL draft.
A year later, they took defensive lineman DeForest Buckner No. 1. In 2017, the team’s top pick was another defensive lineman, Solomon Thomas. And, as this year’s draft approaches, it seems likely the team’s top pick could be Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, a defensive end from Ohio State.
It seems by this point that San Francisco might want to go in another direction, to find an impact player at another position. After all, how many No. 1 picks are the 49ers going to use on the defensive line?
But general manager John Lynch doesn’t see it that way.
He believes drafting a player such as Bosa – or perhaps Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, Michigan edge rusher Rashan Gary or Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen (other possible top-five picks) – would be an investment in a group the Niners believe must be one of the strongest on the roster.
The defensive line, says Lynch, can set the tone for the entire defense and make the team as a whole much better.
“We want to become a dominant force there,” he told reporters recently. “We think that’s very important.”
The 49ers also recently added former Chiefs standout pass rusher Dee Ford, so any further investment on the defensive front could make the defensive line a dominant force, says Lynch.
“It can change the course of a game,” said Lynch. “It can change the course of a season. We have the opportunity to do that with our group. We still have to go do it, but you keep adding pieces, and our expectation is to be special there.”
While Bosa has been the popular player among mock drafts to go to the 49ers at No. 2 overall, Alabama’s Williams could be too good to pass up if San Francisco selects purely on talent rather than need, some believe.
One of those is analyst Steve Palazzolo of the website Pro Football Focus, who recently wrote that Williams was the “best player in the nation in 2018” and emerged as a “dominant interior presence that can disrupt both the pass and the run games.”