2023 NFL Draft: Who could 49ers target on defense, special teams?

Trey Dean III #0 of the Florida Gators (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Trey Dean III #0 of the Florida Gators (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /
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Yaya Diaby, Louisville Cardinals, 49ers
Defensive lineman Yaya Diaby of Louisville (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

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49ers target: YaYa Diaby, EDGE, Louisville

Draft range: 3rd-4th round

The 49ers have EDGE Drake Jackson in his second season as well as welcoming back Kerry Hyder to provide a veteran backup, but they place heavy emphasis on the defensive line, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see them take someone to push Jackson in the future.

YaYa Diaby is a bit of a one-season wonder, but he’s an elite physical specimen and the perfect sort of project for Steve Wilks.

Diaby had nine sacks and 14 tackles for a loss for the Louisville Cardinals in 2022, both being big improvements over his 2021 numbers. He’s an excellent size for an EDGE at 6-foot-3 and 263 pounds while showing excellent speed with a 4.51 40-yard dash time.

Right away, you see the physical components that make Diaby such an intriguing developmental project. Diaby is not only fast but very strong, packing an excellent punch when using his hands and using that speed-to-power technique to beat linemen at the point of attack. He’s able to then drag the lineman off his base and shoot through to disrupt the play.

There’s a lot for Diaby to do, however, for him to be a true impact player at the next level. Diaby is very reliant on the moves he does have and doesn’t have a good array of moves to get past the lineman if his Plan A is stifled.

Diaby is also not a good run defender at this stage of his career either, so he’ll need to be coached up there, too. He might be able to contribute as a passing-down specialist who tees up on the quarterback, but he’s exactly the kind of developmental prospect who’s perfect for Wilks to develop.