This item is part of a series on the positions the 49ers will look to fill in the upcoming draft and the players that are the best fits at those spots. Today’s position:
Position: ‘Elephant’ or ‘Leo’ defensive end
Description: This spot goes to the best pass rusher on the defense. Because the player lines up on the weak side (mostly the right side of the defense), the ‘elephant’ usually doesn’t have to worry about double teams but must be able to beat the opposition’s best offensive lineman, the left tackle. Contrary to the name, the ‘elephant’ doesn’t have to be a big player, but usually is the most athletic member of the defensive front line. Charles Haley, Rickey Jackson and Chris Doleman all have played the spot for the 49ers in the past. Haley was was 6-5, 255 pounds at the time. Cliff Avril (6-3, 260) plays it for the Seahawks.
Who’s there now. The 49ers have penciled in Aaron Lynch at the spot, although others, like Tank Carradine, could be used in the role. Lynch came on strong his rookie year in 2014 with six sacks in three starts. But he didn’t build on that when he became a starter the following year and was suspended for the first four games last season. He also gained a lot of weight during his suspension, reaching 300 pounds, he said. Carradine, meanwhile, has fallen far short of his second-round draft status but would be playing a role similar to how he was used at Florida State.
Need level: 8.7
Perfect fit: Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett is considered the best edge rusher in the draft and would be ideal at this spot. Garrett, however, is likely to be taken with the No. 1 overall pick by the Browns. The best chance for the 49ers to grab him may be by moving into the No. 1 spot. Next on the list is Derek Barnett, who took over the University of Tennessee’s total sack record from Reggie White last season. Barnett is relentless and uses his hands very well but does not have Garrett’s athleticism. Most draft observers don’t think he’s worthy of a Top 10 selection, although his body of work in college is more impressive than any other pass rusher’s this year. Others: Charles Harris, Missouri; Tim Williams, Alabama; Jordan Willis, Kansas State; Tarell Basham, Ohio; Tyus Bowser, Houston; Carl Lawson, Auburn; Ejuan Price, Pitt; Devonte Fields, Louisville.
Left defensive end