When the San Francisco 49ers drafted DE Arik Armstead in the first-round (No. 17) it was a sign that DE Justin Smith would likely retire. Now that Cowboy officially announced his retirement, the question remains who will fulfill his role?
Sure the team has DE Quinton Dial and DE Tank Carradine on the roster but how much faith does the team really have in them, especially since they just invested a first-round pick on a defensive-end with Armstead? That question remains to be seen. However one thing is for sure, someone will garner that role and it will likely be Dial who enters as the front-runner heading into camp.
Back in February, I said that Dial would be the starter and I stand by that statement today. But that’s not to say that Carradine or Armstead won’t be in the mix. Carradine is by far the best pass-rusher of the trio while Armstead will likely get a close look due to his first-round status. But in the end, I believe the team will settle on Dial to start the season.
Many Forever Faithful would ideally want Armstead to be the starter considering he was a first-round pick but let’s be honest, he’s a raw project at this point. He is slow to get off the snap while his lackluster pass-rush skills can use some fine-tuning especially since he plays with a high pad-level. No longer can Armstead use his size to overpower offensive lineman as this is the NFL.
Carradine who is a fan favorite looks to be behind Dial on the depth-chart at the moment but that could change as the season nears. From what players are telling me they believe that Carradine is the stronger of the two but Dial’s elongated wingspan and ability to stack and shed is far superior to Carradine’s skill set.
As for Armstead, like I said he is a project. Not something 49ers fans want to hear but it is what it is. However, should he adapt quickly to the NFL game while grasping the team’s playbook he could see valuable time early on especially on run-downs.
With the 49ers looking to rebuild for the future it will be interesting to see who steps up at defensive-end as one of them will need to standout to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.