There may not be a more important position for the 49ers than defensive end. Their pass rush is the centerpiece of their defense and finding disruptive edge rushers is paramount to fielding an elite defensive unit.
This offseason they’ve made a couple of smaller moves to help replace the loss of Arden Key who posted 6.5 sacks for San Francisco last season. There were splashes to be made, but instead they’ve chosen to rely on depth and getting another player to reach an untapped potential the way Key did a season ago.
Nick Bosa sits atop their depth chart after his 15.5 sacks last year. After that there’s talent, but with that talent comes plenty of question marks.
Let’s take a look at their DE depth going into the 2022 draft:
(AP Photo/Scot Tucker)
Bosa is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. As long as he’s on the field the 49ers will have at least an okay pass rush.
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Ebukam didn’t get off to a great start with the 49ers, but his second half of the year gives some hope he’ll be able to produce at a high level in 2022. After posting just 11 pressures and 1.0 sacks in his first 10 games, he racked up 34 pressures in 8.0 sacks over the final 10 games (including the postseason) per Pro Football Focus. If Ebukam picks up where he left off he could be in for a monster 2022 season.
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
It sounds like Ford has played his last snap for San Francisco after a back injury forced him to miss 26 of the team’s last 33 games. He helped the team get to the Super Bowl in 2019, but he’s been unable to stay on the field since.
(Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
The 49ers acquired Omenihu in a mid-season trade with the Texans. He didn’t have a sack in nine regular season games, but he did post 1.5 in three postseason contests. It stands to reason a full offseason with the club where he can establish a role he’s more comfortable in could allow him to thrive in his second season. He’ll get chances to move around the line and rush from multiple spots.
(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Hyder is a familiar name for the 49ers after leading the team with a career-high 8.5 sacks in 2020. He spent last season with the Seahawks and posted just 1.5 sacks in 15 games. He could be a potentially direct replacement for Key who rushed from the interior and the edge.
(Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
The 49ers are hoping Turay can emerge this season the way Key did last season. Injuries derailed the former second-round pick after a strong rookie campaign. He put together his best year as a pro in 2021 when he posted a career-best 5.5 sacks. Now he’ll get plenty of chances to build off that season as a key piece of the 49ers’ pass rush.
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The 49ers added Willis in a trade in 2020, then a suspension left him out of the first part of the 2021 campaign. He re-signed on a one-year deal in free agency this offseason after playing hero for the 49ers’ special teams in the divisional playoffs. Willis is a good rotational player, but it wouldn’t be all bad for San Francisco if other talent surpassed him on the roster.
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Barrett has mostly been a practice squad player for the 49ers over the last couple years. His familiarity with defensive line coach Kris Kocurek makes him a valuable in-house depth piece, but he’s a very long shot to land a roster spot.