With the abrupt retirements of San Francisco 49ers ILBs Patrick Willis and Chris Borland that leaves a gaping hole inside. The 49ers who are set at outside linebacker with the trio of OLB Aldon Smith, OLB Ahmad Brooks, and OLB Aaron Lynch, it’s the inside linebacker position that has the team worried.
The 49ers have ILB NaVorro Bowman, but it’s unsure if he will be ready to start the season. If that’s the case that leaves just one player worthy of starting the season at inside linebacker–ILB Michael Wilhoite. Beyond that the depth is concerning.
So where do the 49ers go from here? The free-agent market is all but dried up, so it’s likely that GM Trent Baalke will turn to the draft to fill this void.
The 49ers currently hold the 15th overall pick in this year’s draft, yet they could opt to trade down, accumulate additional picks, and then select the top rated inside linebacker on my big board in Miami’s MLB Denzel Perryman.
Perryman, who currently ranks No. 23 on my big board would be the logical selection if the 49ers go this route.
He displays leadership, heart, and elite instincts. The 49ers who may lose both of their defensive captains as DE Justin Smith ponders retirement–makes selecting Perryman a nice consolation prize.
Perryman is a natural born leader. He is very vocal on the field while putting in plenty of work in both the weight room and film-room off the field. Known as a film-room junkie, Perryman would fill in nicely for Borland as both of them share similar read-and-reaction skills which allows them to blow up plays in the backfield.
However, he can get caught out of position at times as his read-and-reaction skill set is a double-edged sword. Remind you of anyone?
The same was said about Borland as DC Vic Fangio said, “He’s got really good instincts, and sometimes he thinks his instincts are taking him to a play and he’s aborting his own assignment and he’s gotten burned on that a few times,” Fangio said during training camp.
Gap discipline is imperative in a 3-4 defense so Perryman will need to take this into account as he goes up against the premier quarterbacks in the NFL.
But you can’t deny Perryman’s talent. He plays with a low-center of gravity and his stocky frame makes it hard for offensive lineman to get their hands on him. A physical player that loves to mix it up, Perryman is not one to shy away from contact as he displays a nasty mean streak. And the 49ers could use some nasty on their defense.
Aside from Perryman’s physicality, it’s his tackling ability that makes him a sure-fire first-round pick. Rarely will you see Perryman unable to wrap-up a ball carrier one-on-one. He seldom uses a shoe-string tackle but instead uses his ‘thumper’ strength to bring down ball carriers on initial contact. A player that squares up and hits what he sees, Perryman is a top tackler in that regard.
But if there’s one flaw in his game it’s his pass-coverage skills. At Miami, Perryman was often substituted out on third-downs as he was unable to stay with tight-ends and running backs coming off double-moves. Not to mention, Perryman ran a slow 4.78 official 40-yard dash, it has scouts worried if he can be a three-down linebacker at the next level.
With the 49ers likely to be movers on draft day, do not be surprised if they trade back, gain an additional pick and then take Perryman in the first-round. A true leader with the instincts to flourish, Perryman would be a nice building block for the 49ers defense as they reload their roster.