With the 49ers expected to add a pass-rusher in the 2021 NFL Draft, Niner Noise takes a look at an edge-rushing prospect to target for every round.
The NFL mock-draft season is in full force with seemingly every pundit, draft expert, and average Joe putting out their version of April’s NFL Draft.
With the San Francisco 49ers slated to have at least one pick in each round of this year’s draft, general manager John Lynch has plenty of ammunition to fill the team’s roster holes.
One of the positions the team is expected to address is edge rusher. While Nick Bosa is reportedly making excellent progress in his return from his season-ending knee injury suffered in 2020, the same cannot be said of fellow EDGE Dee Ford.
Ford tried to battle through injuries in 2019, appearing in 11 regular-season games. Even with that limited time, he still managed 6.5 sacks. He also had another sack in the postseason.
But he was injured once again in 2020, suffering a back injury that limited him to just one game, and there doesn’t appear to be any timetable for his return either, which is even more bad news for the depth chart.
Ford’s current contract of $20.08 million ($15.15 million in base salary) makes him a potential cut candidate, especially if the team can figure out how to do it without accruing too much dead money going forward, although an injury guarantee worked into the deal complicates matters a lot.
If the team does move on from Ford, however, it would leave a hole on the opposite side of the line from Bosa.
And while there are quite a few pass-rushing free agents set to be available in a few weeks, including the 49ers’ own, Kerry Hyder, the salary cap may be prohibitive for them to make a significant signing there.
So with that said, we are going to have a bit of fun with it. We will look at an edge-rusher pick for San Francisco in each of the seven rounds in April’s draft.
49ers NFL Draft Target Rd. 1: Kwity Paye, Michigan
If a team is looking for a pass-rusher in the draft, Michigan’s Kwity Paye, a 6-foot-4, 271-pound athletic “freak” checks a lot of the boxes.
Paye has excellent hand technique and can take advantage of tackles with his hands, and he comes into a game with a pass-rush plan but can adjust that plan based on the blocker’s reactions to him.
He also is solid in setting the edge, sheds tackles well with his size and length. This allows him to read and react, and adjust to a running back’s movements. He is a solid tackler and plays with excellent field vision.
While Paye wasn’t lighting up the stat sheet, having just 11.5 sacks over four years, all the intangibles are there. If he puts it all together, he could be an elite-level pass-rusher for years to come.
With a potential run on quarterbacks at the top of the draft, it could push other positional players down the board. Paye could be available when the Niners are on the clock at No. 12 overall.