When the San Francisco 49ers drafted OLB Aaron Lynch in the fifth-round (No. 150) of the 2014 NFL Draft, no one really knew what type of player they would be getting.
A player that had character concerns while his former coach openly criticized him, it didn’t start well for Lynch as he couldn’t shake off the baggage that would eventually follow him to Santa Clara.
I have to admit, even I was skeptical of the former Notre Dame product though I thought he would be a high-risk/high-reward prospect as I gave this assessment before the NFL Draft:
“Red flags that include character concerns, mental makeup, and commitment to the game, one has to wonder why GM Trent Baalke brought him in for a pre-draft visit. And to add fuel to the fire, Lynch was literally thrown out of one of the NFL team’s interviews for lying at the combine. However, Lynch’s on-field skill set can’t be denied. A speed pass-rusher with violent hands, Lynch would be a pass-rush specialist early on in his career.
But the question remains, will the 49ers draft him? Considered a late fifth to seventh-round draft pick, do not be surprised if Baalke drafts him as he already drafted another USF star in QB B.J. Daniels last season.”
And the 49ers did just that as they drafted Lynch in the fifth-round and he didn’t disappoint.
In his rookie season, Lynch made a splash as he recorded 23 tackles, six sacks and one blocked punt. His six sacks tied for the team lead despite playing sparingly in the first half of the season while boasting the second best pass-rushing grade according to Pro Football Focus with a 5.6.
However, it remains to be seen what role the USF product will have in his sophomore season as the team made a surprising move to keep disgruntled OLB Ahmad Brooks.
Brooks who became an off-field distraction as he was benched twice during the 2014 season; once during the New York Giants game for getting into a heated argument with then defensive line coach Jim Tomsula and then benched a few weeks later in the Battle of the Bay after missing a team meeting, it became evident that Brooks was upset about his playing time. Last time I checked, football was a team sport.
Fast forward to today and Brooks is still on the roster leaving many to wonder what role Lynch will have in 2015.
A pass-rushing phenom, Lynch should at least be included on nickel packages despite Brooks wanting to be a three-down backer. Lynch has longer arms and the speed to turn the corner making him an ideal option on obvious passing downs evident by recording five sacks in a six game stretch from Weeks 7-13.
But will Brooks be open to a reduced role? That remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, Lynch is one heck of a playmaker when it comes to pressuring the quarterback and will only get better as he approaches his second season.
Here’s some food for thought when comparing the two outside linebackers, according to PFF Lynch had 16 more quarterback pressures than Brooks while pacing the team for all outside linebackers with 27. Combine that number with Lynch also leading the team in quarterback hits (8) and you can see why he’s so important when the opposing quarterback drops back.
A very focused football player as he maintains great work ethic in the weight room while dieting on kale shakes from Whole Foods, do not count out Lynch in 2015 as he should see close to double-digit sacks in 2015.
What are your thoughts Forever Faithful? Do you think Lynch should start over Brooks? Give us your feedback.