2018 NFL Draft: Why 49ers should consider drafting EDGE Harold Landry

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 04: Boston College defensive lineman Harold Landry (DL39) runs thru a drill during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 4, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 04: Boston College defensive lineman Harold Landry (DL39) runs thru a drill during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 4, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers have a dire need of finding an elite pass-rusher heading into the 2018 NFL Draft. Among all the edge rusher prospects this year, Boston College’s Harold Landry should be one of the Niners’ top targets.

During the 2017 regular season, the 49ers struggled in applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks.

San Francisco’s defense only recorded 30 total sacks throughout the year, which ranked sixth least in the NFL.

Veteran defensive end Elvis Dumervil was the team’s leader with 6.5 sacks, although the Niners elected not to pick up his option for 2018. He’s now a free agent.

Passing Defense Table
27San Francisco 49ers30
Avg Team37.3

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/19/2018.

Despite using their first-round picks on a defensive lineman for three consecutive drafts, the 49ers still lack a formidable pass rush.

While DeForest Buckner has been a solid force in the middle, Arik Armstead has not been consistent. Second-year EDGE Solomon Thomas has been impressive as a run stopper, but has yet to improve as a pass-rusher.

San Francisco did re-sign Cassius Marsh and inked Jeremiah Attaochu to a one-year deal in this year’s free agency. However, these two players might only be used as situational pass-rushers at best.

Therefore, general manager John Lynch would need to prioritize finding an elite edge rusher in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Many scouts consider North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb as this year’s draft’s top defensive end prospect. But, Chubb is unlikely to fall to the 49ers, who are picking ninth overall.

As a result, San Francisco should consider taking the next best pure pass-rusher in the draft, Harold Landry.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 252 pounds, Landry has proven to be a perennial impact player at the edge. Regardless of his smaller size for a defensive lineman, the Boston College product can still pass by defenders with his incredible speed and change of direction.

As expected, Landry shined during the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine.

Landry outstandingly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds. He was also the top performer for the three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle among all defensive linemen.

NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah breaks down Landry’s performance in this year’s combine:

Upon drafting Landry, NFL teams would hope he would replicate his remarkable 2016 campaign.

During that year, Landry racked up 16.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and an interception. He also recorded 50 tackles, 22 of which were for a loss of yardage.

Even though his stats dipped in 2017, Landry is still considered as one of the top pass-rushers in the draft. He remained a threat to opposing quarterbacks despite his decrease in numbers and an ankle injury that led him to miss four games.

Harold Landry Defense & Fumbles Table

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 3/20/2018.

Throughout his time in college, Landry has proven his athletic, rushing and playmaking abilities. While he needs more diversity in his pass-rushing style, Landry does possess a strong burst at the point of attack.

Landry’s movement and twitch after snaps look solid and his long strides help him get to the quarterback even quicker.

If only Landry improves his upper-body strength while transitioning into the pros, he would have the potential to be a Pro Bowler one day.

Landry’s speed and athleticism are difficult to ignore, but he has to develop in certain areas to successfully penetrate through the NFL’s top offensive lines.

The 49ers could use the ninth overall pick to acquire Landry in this year’s draft. However, Landry is projected to be taken off the board outside of the top 10.

If the opportunity presents itself, San Francisco might end up trading down in the draft if the team truly has interest in acquiring Landry.

Especially because Chubb falling to the ninth pick is unlikely, the Niners may consider trading down in the first round to pick up Landry later on.

Next: San Francisco 49ers: Day-two offensive guards to target in the 2018 NFL Draft

With their crucial pass-rushing needs, the 49ers drafting another defensive lineman this year makes a lot of sense. Landry should definitely be in high consideration, as he has the potential to finally solve one of San Francisco’s most glaring problems heading into the 2018 season.