49ers position battle No. 4: Defensive line
Players in the mix: Kevin Atkins*, Arik Armstead, Alex Barrett, Nick Bosa, Samson Ebukam, Dee Ford, Kevin Givens, Maurice Hurst, Kerry Hyder Jr., Drake Jackson*, Javon Kinlaw, Charles Omenihu, Hassan Ridgeway, Chris Slayton, Kemoko Turay, Jordan Willis
San Francisco’s defensive line was already a strength entering the NFL Draft despite losing standout nose tackle D.J. Jones to free agency.
So, what did the 49ers do? Doubled down on their pass-rushing needs by grabbing former USC EDGE Drake Jackson at No. 61 overall.
Jackson figures to be more to the Niners defense than what oft-injured EDGE Dee Ford has been the last couple of years, and it seems likely they’ll make Ford a post-June 1 roster cut amid his notable injury setbacks anyway, meaning the need for a full-time outside pass-rusher was still there prior to Jackson.
Jackson and Pro Bowler Nick Bosa are presumed to handle these duties, but backing them up will be an intriguing camp battle.
San Francisco welcomed back its 2020 sack leader in defensive end Kerry Hyder, who’ll be in the mix alongside Charles Omenihu, Samson Ebukam, Kemoko Turay and Jordan Willis, the latter three being more speed rushers than anything else.
It’s likely only two of that crop make the cut, though.
As for the interior, the 49ers can hope Jones’ departure is alleviated by a fully healthy tandem of Javon Kinlaw and Maurice Hurst, both of whom suffered notable injuries last season and scantly saw the field.
Regardless, there’s a lot of depth here, meaning a number of starting-caliber players are likely to be pushed off the roster by Week 1.