49ers still own best defense after NFL Draft, per Bleacher Report
By Peter Panacy
Despite not having a first- or second-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the 49ers still boast the league's best defense, according to Bleacher Report.
The San Francisco 49ers owned the NFL's No. 1-ranked scoring defense last season. However, in the wake of losing some notable figures to free agency such as safety Jimmie Ward, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley and EDGE Samson Ebukam, would that rank hold fast through the 2023 NFL Draft.
Sure, the Niners also helped make up for those losses by grabbing former Philadelphia Eagles star defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. Yet San Francisco was going to be challenged at getting some rookie talent to replace their losses on the defensive side of the ball, mainly due to the fact the team lacked picks in Rounds 1 and 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft. And the 49ers weren't scheduled to select until the very end of Round 3.
No bother. The Niners traded up in the third round and grabbed former Penn State safety Ji'Ayir Brown at No. 87 overall in a move they hope will ultimately make up for Ward's departure.
Read More: 49ers hope rookie Ji'Ayir Brown can be next defensive centerpiece
Cornerback Darrell Luter Jr., EDGE Robert Beal Jr. and linebackers Dee Winters and Jalen Graham figure to bolster the depth chart while hopefully providing some long-term starting options down the road.
All that said, San Francisco isn't exactly on too many experts' lists of having the best NFL Draft class.
So, with that in mind, did the 49ers fall from grace in terms of their top-seeded defensive ranking this offseason?
No. At least not according to Bleacher Report.
Bleacher Report says 49ers still boast No. 1 defense after NFL Draft
Not only did the Niners lose some key impact players from their defense this offseason, but they also lost their defensive coordinator, DeMeco Ryans, who is now the Houston Texans' head coach.
In walks former Carolina Panthers interim head coach Steve Wilks, though, and he inherits one of the league's best defenses that might actually be better despite the free-agent departures and in light of Hargrave's arrival.
According to Kristopher Knox of B/R, that's precisely what Wilks is getting with San Francisco, and the 49ers boasting the No. 1 defense in the league hasn't changed in the wake of the NFL Draft.
Here's what Knox had to say about the Niners being at the very top:
"Teams like the Eagles and Jets may make a case for the top spot in 2023, but picking the 49ers post-draft was an easy (and correct) choice. Led by playmakers like Fred Warner, Talanoa Hufanga, Dre Greenlaw, Tashaun Gipson and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa, the 49ers defense doesn't have any one glaring weakness. … Until another team proves otherwise, the 49ers defense must be considered the best in the NFL."
In fact, Philly is No. 2. And it might be argued that Philadelphia is the only team both deep and talented enough to challenge San Francisco, defensively.
Either way, it's hard to argue Knox's viewpoint, especially considering the losses during the offseason weren't overly painful and the influx of talent, particularly Hargrave, were substantial.
Now, Wilks just has to deploy his assets correctly.