Editor’s note: Matt Maiocco will provide daily content previewing the NFL Draft, including position breakdowns, news stories, mock drafts and more. Here, he analyzes draft prospects at defensive line, and whether the 49ers should select one.
If the 49ers’ defense this season is put under the same strain as Chip Kelly’s teams with the Philadelphia Eagles, a lot of depth will be required on the defensive line.
The Eagles faced a league-high number of plays from scrimmage in 2015 and 2013. In 2014, the Eagles’ defense was on the field for the second-most number of plays in the NFL.
“The key to me is third down,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said. “Get off the field on third down and build your roster so you can get off the field on third down. You got to be able to stop the run and rush the passer. If you can do those two things, third down becomes a lot easier.”
The 49ers invested the No. 17 overall pick last year in Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead, who played well in a limited role last season in the team’s base defense.
The 49ers signed Quinton Dial to a contract extension and re-signed Tony Jerod-Eddie to a one-year contract. The 49ers do not know whether Ian Williams (ankle) or Glenn Dorsey (knee) will be available for the start of the regular season.
Who’s here: Arik Armstead, Quinton Dial, Ian Williams, Glenn Dorsey, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Mike Purcell, Tank Carradine, Kaleb Ramsey, Garrison Smith, Marcus Rush
Draft needs: The 49ers can be expected to shuttle defensive linemen in and out of the lineup to remain fresh. The 49ers have some good talent, but there’s enough uncertainty that selecting a defensive lineman or two is likely to occur.
“Will we look to add something? We might,” Baalke said. “But if you talk to the coaches, they’re pretty excited about that group right now.”
The 49ers believe they found the correct role for Tank Carradine, who has been unproductive in his first three seasons after the 49ers drafted him in the second round. He figures to be a pass-rush specialist as part of the 49ers’ nickel defense.
Selecting a defensive lineman is one of the possible scenarios for the 49ers with the No. 7 overall pick.
Good fits: If the 49ers use their top selection on a defensive lineman, the most-likely pick is DeForest Buckner of Oregon. Buckner (6 foot 7, 291 pounds) has tremendous size. He is a strong run defender and brings good ability to push the pocket with his pass rush, too.
Shaq Lawson (Clemson) came to Santa Clara for a visit, and could be an end on the 49ers' four-man line. He is more of a power player who does not have great upside as a pass-rusher. Kevin Dodd (Clemson) came out of nowhere last season to become one of college football’s top pass-rushers. He could transition to outside linebacker, but his role as a rookie would be to line up at defensive end in nickel situations and get after the quarterback.
The 49ers could also have interest in Leonard Floyd (Georgia) or Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State) if they were to move back in the first round or, perhaps, up from the second round. On Day 2, Kamalei Correa (Boise State) could be an attractive choice.