Many mock drafts that have been released this off-season have the San Francisco 49ers selecting a defensive linemen with their first pick, much to the dismay of many 49ers’ fans. It’s confusing why that has become such a popular pick among mock drafts. Most people who watch the 49ers would agree that a defensive linemen isn’t even in the top three needs that the 49ers have. The 49ers are just about set on the defensive line for this year. They have some high quality starters with high quality depth behind them.
A possible answer to this question could be that analysts and others are looking at the stat sheets to determine the 49ers’ defensive line’s value. As I have written in a previous article, the stats don’t tell the whole story. Just because the defensive line isn’t racking up sacks, does not mean they aren’t play well. With the linebackers the 49ers have, the defensive line’s main job is to eat up blockers so that the linebackers can do their jobs.
Justin Smith: The biggest name on the DL, and the best player. Justin Smith is known for his power and strength that allows him to push offensive linemen in to the quarterback’s face. Smith will be 35 this season, and although he is a beast, everything that makes him such a force on the line will begin to diminish. Smith racked up 6.5 sacks this year, which is still pretty impressive. Luckily for Smith, the 49ers found some depth that they didn’t have in 2011 or 2012, and it will allow him to rest more and slow down the inevitable decline of his play.
Ray McDonald: The unsung hero of the defense. McDonald might not be a super flashy player but he is an above average player that helps the defense be as great as it is. McDonald has never been a sack master, but he is very good at blowing up run plays and eating up blockers. He might not be in every play, but if you watch him closely, you can just see how his contributions allow the rest of the defense to perform the way they do.
Glenn Dorsey: Coming out of college, Dorsey was predicted to be an elite player. Unfortunately, he didn’t pan out as well as everyone had hoped and was labeled a bust in Kansas City. The 49ers picked up Dorsey last off-season hoping he could contribute. And contribute he did. When Ian Williams went down in week two, Dorsey stepping in at nose tackle. Some fans were scared at what might happen when Dorsey was in the middle of the line, but were pleasantly surprised to see how Dorsey played. In five years in Kansas City, Dorsey only earned four sacks. In only one year in San Francisco, Dorsey came close to matching that by earning two sacks. With Ian Williams returning next year, it’s unclear how much playing time Dorsey will get.
Tony Jerod-Eddie: If you said: “who?” when reading this name, don’t feel bad. Most people couldn’t tell you who this guy is. Jerod-Eddie is not an elite player or even really an above average player. But he is a very solid back up that can come in for a couple plays and give the starters some rest. Don’t expect Jerod-Eddie to rack up sacks, but don’t be worried that he’s going to ruin the entire defense when comes in. Heck, he even got an interception this year!
Ian Williams: A starter going into the season, Williams broke his ankle in week two and was put on injured reserve which ended his season. He’s a young player that hasn’t had much playing time, so it’s unclear what kind of impact he might have, but if he was able to begin the season in the starting lineup, then he has some skill. Williams is going to have to earn his starting spot back from Dorsey, and if he can, then he deserves the spot.
Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial: Both of these guys were rookies who were coming off injuries in college. Dial got some playing time, but other than a few snaps, he didn’t really see the field. Carradine when healthy was considered a first round talent. The 49ers drafted him in the second round and then proceeded to sit him for the entire year. The 49ers didn’t want to risk anything with his recovery, because they most likely are going to have a big role for him in this upcoming season.