Chances are strong that Aaron Lynch won’t be starting for the 49ers when the 2015 season opens in September.
The second-year linebacker is likely to remain a situational player, with veterans Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith the starters at outside linebacker in the 49ers’ 3-4 scheme.
Both Brooks and Smith have been reported to be in excellent condition and eager to prove that their down seasons in 2014 won’t be repeated.
But that doesn’t mean Lynch, who had a strong rookie season, won’t be an impact player.
In fact, the analytics website Pro Football Focus this week labeled Lynch as its “secret superstar” of the 49ers.
The fifth-round pick of San Francisco in 2014 would have been a much higher pick but for the concerns by many teams of some off-the-field issues during his time at Notre Dame and South Florida. But from the outset, Lynch made his presence known as a situational pass rusher. As Pro Football Focus noted, Lynch had six sacks, eight quarterback hits, 27 hurries and 41 total pressures on opposing QBs, making him a top-10 pass rusher among outside linebackers in the NFL (based on efficiency of snaps played). He also graded out average against the run.
“With a year of NFL experience under his belt, Lynch enters 2015 hoping to make a big second-year jump,” wrote PFF’s Chris Kern. “He may begin the season again in a similar sub-package role with two high-priced veterans in Aldon Smith and Brooks ahead of him on the depth chart, but look for Lynch to push them for playing time.”
Lynch and this year’s third-round pick, Eli Harold of Virginia, give the 49ers a pair of pass-rush specialists who help give the 49ers a deep group at outside linebacker. Should either Brooks or Smith be injured, the Niners now have some talent to step up, along with third-year pro Corey Lemonier.
For his part, Lynch says 2014 was an educational year that he’s hoping to build on in 2015.
“You learn that you always have to give your utmost effort because you’re not just doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for everybody in the room,” said Lynch this offseason. “And that’s what I really got from those guys (veterans) when they went out there. They gave it their all. They put us in a position to win games.”