No. 1: EDGE Dee Ford
It was a very up and down season for Ford during his first season as a member of the 49ers.
Most of that was due to his inability to stay on the field, although the pass-rusher recently had surgery to resolve knee tendinitis and playing on what he called a “blown tire” last year.
San Francisco 49ers
When he was playing, he was effective and the 49ers defense was much better than it was without him, so it’ll be up to Ford to maintain his health in order to keep the defense near the top of the NFL in 2020.
The most remarkable thing about Ford’s 2019 is how much he accomplished in spite of how little playing time he saw. He played in just 11 regular-season games and just 22 percent of the 49ers’ defensive snaps, yet he still had 6.5 sacks, an additional six quarterback hits and forced two fumbles.
The 49ers don’t necessarily need Ford to be an every-down player at this point, but if he can join Bosa and defensive end Ronald Blair, along with Armstead, in creating a rotation of fearsome pass-rushers and produce at the clip he did in 2019, there’s no reason to think the Niners defense can’t continue to be formidable in 2020.
Ford’s not doing so or a continued inability to stay healthy might lead to his 49ers tenure being cut short after this season, but it will be for the benefit of all involved if Ford is back to being the dominant player he was during his final year in Kansas City.
Even the 2016 version of Ford, where he played 72 percent of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps and racked up 10 sacks, would do the trick.
If he does so, the rest of the NFL should be worried, because the terrifying 2019 pass rush could be even scarier in 2020.