The 49ers knew one thing this offseason: They had to build a better pass rush.
Playing in a conference with quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Jared Goff – and now, Kyler Murray – the 49ers’ pass rush was inferior in 2018, exposing a multitude of defensive problems. Last season, the 49ers had just 37 sacks, tied for 22nd in the league.
But by selecting Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa with the No. 2 pick in Thursday night’s first round of the NFL draft – after already signing one of the NFL’s top edge rushers in former Chiefs star Dee Ford – San Francisco’s defensive front has the potential to be terrific.
Especially because Bosa and Ford join a unit that already has former No. 1 picks Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead up front, too. Now, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has the depth and talent out of his variable 4-3 front to put much better pressure on quarterbacks than in recent years.
The 49ers have invested heavily in their defensive front, but general manager John Lynch believes it can be the foundation for this team’s overall growth. Lynch told ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner recently that adding Ford and an elite rusher at defensive end (which turned out to be Bosa) gives San Francisco a chance “to be dominant at something.”
Said Lynch: “Instead of, ‘We’re pretty good here,’ an opportunity to be dominant. I think we’re getting close to having that opportunity. Whether that happens, that’s up to the guys. We’ve got to make that happen.”
Bosa, the younger brother of Chargers standout defensive end Joey Bosa, is 6-foot-4 and 267 pounds. He’s received rave reviews for his technique and hand use, his never-stop motor and his strength.
He played just three games in 2018 because of an injury, but as a sophomore in 2017 he had 8½ sacks and 16 tackles for loss.
Bosa told an interviewer on the TV broadcast Thursday night after being selected that, “I want to get with my team and kick some butt on the field. I’m so excited to go to work.”
The Niners were fortunate, in a way, in that Bosa could have been the top pick in the draft. Many had him rated as the best prospect available. But the Arizona Cardinals, drafting first, took quarterback Kyler Murray of Oklahoma.