Sakamoto: 49ers’ Look To Draft For Edge Rushers In 3-4 Scheme


The San Francisco 49ers desperately need an edge-rusher at the 3-4 outside linebacker position opposite of OLB Aaron Lynch. Sure the team has veteran OLB Ahmad Brooks, but he is nothing more than a stop-gap, forcing the team to look for alternatives, since second-year OLB Eli Harold had an up-and-down rookie season.

To be quite frank, the 49ers had the cap space to address this glaring need in free-agency, but opted to tackle a wait-and-see approach and address the need via this year’s NFL draft. And that’s exactly what they are doing, as they have been doing their due diligence on five 3-4 edge rushers including DE/OLB Shaq Lawson (Clemson), DE/OLB Kevin Dodd (Clemson), DE/OLB C.J. Johnson (Ole Miss), OLB Beniquez Brown (MSU) and OLB Darron Lee (Ohio St.).

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Lawson, Dodd, and Lee are all projected first-round selections but Johnson and Brown are projected to go somewhere in the second to fourth rounds.

From what I see on film, I don’t see Lawson as a 3-4 outside linebacker playing in a two-point stance, as I feel he is best suited in a 4-3 even man front with his hand in the dirt at defensive end. Then there is his teammate, Dodd.

At 6-5, 277, Dodd needs some work in space especially when sinking his hips in coverage, but no one can question his motor, fundamentals, and football instincts. Those are three traits that HC Chip Kelly covets and after his private workout with the team, Dodd likely has a gold helmet next to his name on GM Trent Baalke’s draft board.

The wild card could be Lee from ‘The Ohio State University.” A player who reminds me a lot of another former Buckeye who went in the first-round named LB Ryan Shazier, Lee could be the next in line to go in the top 20 of this year’s NFL draft.

Lee is a little undersized at 6-1, 232, but so was Shazier who checked in at 6-1, 237. Both possess similar speed, athleticism, and fluid hips to make plays in an odd-man front, making Lee a nice value selection in the 15-20 range should the 49ers trade down.

With the 49ers looking hard at edge-rushers in their odd-man front to pair with Lynch for the long-term, keep an eye out for a pre-draft visit for Lee, OLB Jordan Jenkins (Georgia) and OLB Noah Spence (Eastern Kentucky).


30 Pre-Draft Visits

WR Corey Coleman (Baylor)

WR Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss)

DE Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss)

DE/OLB Shaq Lawson (Clemson)

DE/OLB Kevin Dodd (Clemson)

CB Mackensie Alexander (Clemson)

CB Eli Apple (Ohio St.)


Private Workout

WR Leonte Carroo (Rutgers)

DE/OLB Shaq Lawson (Clemson)

DE/OLB Kevin Dodd (Clemson)

LB B.J. Goodson (Clemson)


Pro Day Meeting

OG Joshua Garnett (Stanford)

OT Lars Hanson (Sacramento St.)

TE Nick Vannett (Ohio St.)

WR Tyler Boyd (Pitt)

WR Keyarris Garrett (Tulsa)

WR De’Runnya Wilson (MSU)

DE Mike Rose (NC State)

DE/OLB C.J. Johnson (Ole Miss)

OLB Beniquez Brown (MSU)

OLB Darron Lee (Ohio St.)

CB Kennya Dennis (Missouri)

CB Taveze Calhoun (MSU)

CB Zack Sanchez (Oklahoma)

CB Blake Countess (Auburn)


Senior Bowl Meeting

NT Austin Johnson (Penn St.)

ILB Reggie Ragland (Alabama)


East/West Shrine Bowl Meeting

QB Vernon Adams (Eastern Washington)

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at or call him at (408) 622-0996.