SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch pulled off a surprise when he orchestrated a trade for Pro Bowl defensive end Dee Ford in March. Lynch’s decision to take Ohio State’s Nick Bosa with the second overall pick in the draft Thursday was anticipated.
The two moves give the 49ers a pair of bookend edge rushers who should immediately help a defense that generated 36 sacks and finished 23rd in the NFL last season.
“It’s something that (coach Kyle Shanahan) and I had as a priority when we got here,” Lynch said. “Two of the first things we talked about is finding our quarterback and finding the guys to knock them down. Both in quality and quantity we have improved drastically in that respect. Now we have to go deliver. Nick really helps us in our ability to do that.”
Ford is coming off the first Pro Bowl season of his career and is penciled in to start on the right side of San Francisco’s defensive line while Bosa is projected to start on the left.
It marks the fourth time in five years that the 49ers took a defensive lineman with their first-round pick, all in hopes of improving a pass rush that has been mediocre for several seasons.
Bosa, whose brother is Chargers star Joey Bosa, believes the quality of San Francisco’s line will make it easier for him to blend in.
“It’s unbelievable just to be on a team that really shouldn’t have been this high in the draft with all the talent that they have,” Bosa said. “And then they add Dee Ford, which makes this D-line scary. It’s pretty impossible to double-team any of us because then you’re single-teaming one of us. It’s going to be fun.”
Bosa had 17 ½ sacks and 29 tackles for loss in 30 games with the Buckeyes. He played in only three games as a junior before suffering a core muscle injury that required surgery. Although there was speculation Bosa would return to school, he announced in mid-October that he would be concentrating on the draft.
Bosa’s last game was on Sept. 15 when he had five tackles, a sack and a forced fumble against TCU.
“I miss it a lot, man,” Bosa said. “You don’t realize it until you’re away from it for so long. I’m itching to get out there, I really am.”
Prior to getting hurt, Bosa had four sacks, 14 tackles, six tackles for loss and a forced fumble and was in the early Heisman Trophy conversations.
That came on the heels of his spectacular sophomore campaign when Bosa had eight sacks, 15 tackles for loss and was the Big Ten defensive lineman of the year despite starting only four of the 14 games he played.
“When you’re watching players certain things jump out right away. Nick has a tremendous first step, he gains a ton of ground,” Lynch said. “A mix of speed and power and then he’s an absolute technician with his hands. He’s not only incredibly talented, powerful, fast but he’s very efficient in the way he plays.”
Shanahan believes his newest rookie can do more than just chase after quarterbacks.
“I see him as a three-down player,” Shanahan said. “He’s got to come in and do it. His best strength is rushing the passer but he can play all three downs and can play in all situations.”
Bosa does come with some baggage. He recently came under scrutiny for comments he made on Twitter regarding political and racial subjects. Bosa deleted some of them and told ESPN he did so because he might end up in San Francisco.
“I love the Bay Area and I’m excited to play there,” Bosa said after being drafted. “I was a little insensitive in some of the things I said. I’ve learned a lot in the past few months. I’m just ready to move forward from that, put it in the past, and bring the faithful some wins.”
Lynch said the 49ers spoke with several of Bosa’s teammates and coaches and had been made aware of the issues on social media.
“As we do with all of our prospects, we do background checks and look at their social media,” Lynch said. “We choose to think more about what we’ve heard from people as to who the person really is. We’re going to give him a fresh start and we hope that everybody will.”
The 49ers may be tempted to stay on the defensive side during the second day of the draft. San Francisco needs help in the secondary, although it has issues at receiver and with the depth of the offensive line.
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