It’s no secret the San Francisco 49ers want to emphasize building the defense either through free agency or the NFL Draft.
For the latter, the franchise have nine picks to choose from starting on April 29 as they hold no first round option by virtue of the Trey Lance selection of 2021. Most fans and draft analysts believe that of all places the 49ers will hone in on for the draft, they will start with the secondary in their early picks to fill the holes likely to be vacated by most of the seven listed as free agents.
Or won’t they?
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One NFL Draft expert has the 49ers pulling this surprise: Drafting a complimentary piece to line up alongside one All-Pro on the 49ers. And this move from Oliver Hodgkinson of the Pro Football Network has the ‘Niners going with help for Nick Bosa with their first draft option.
The Surprise Pick Called an ‘Excellent Companion’
In his recent mock draft for the 49ers, Hodgkinson has the 49ers building from the defensive trenches to start. And he calls this option an “excellent companion” for Bosa.
That option at No. 61 overall? Penn State edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie.
Why is the 6-foot-3, 256-pounder labeled the first draft pick for the 49ers’ 2022 class? Especially with the litany of options the 49ers have to fill at cornerback and safety? Here’s what Hodgkinson wrote:
“With Nick Bosa leading the way, edge might not feel like the biggest need for the 49ers in this draft. They, after all, ranked sixth with 48 sacks this season. However, they fared substantially worse in pressures created. Furthermore, they have Arden Key, Jordan Willis, and Kentavius Street all set to hit free agency. All have made contributions this year.
Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie continued his exceptional ascension in this class with an outstanding performance in Mobile. In the National Team practice report, Pro Football Network Draft Analyst Ian Cummings described him as “one of the most consistent edge rushers” at the all-star game.
Ebiketie is explosive, bendy, and powerful, making him an excellent companion to Bosa at the bookend of the 49ers’ defensive line.”
A Closer Look at Ebiketie
Ebiketie has been labeled as a Friday talent — with ESPN’s Todd McShay placing him at No. 33 overall on his draft board on Tuesday, February 22, which makes the Nittany Lion the first pick of the second round.
His fellow network draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. is also high on him, citing his regular season action at both Penn State and Temple (where he began his college career) as his reasonings why Ebiketie will command second round attention.
Ebiketie comes equipped with trench versatility, which he takes pride in.
But hand combat wise, here’s what he was able to do against Wisconsin — often known for producing high-profile offensive linemen come draft day:
He shows how fast he is with engaging his hands here as well:
He’s shown an ability to sell his rush but then put blindside tackles in an awkward spot.
Ebiketie has outstanding edge quickness and strong hands. Hodgkinson of PFN is high on him as a 49er. But what are others saying?
What Other Scouts Have Said, Plus Prospect of Becoming a 49er
Here’s what two other NFL scouts have said about the Big 10 standout.
Bleacher Report’s Derrik Klassen: “Ebiketie is a dangerous pass-rusher off the edge. His first step will not amaze anyone, but everything afterward is a marvel.” Klassen additionally called Ebiketie a potential 10-sack player in his report.
Lance Zierlein of nfl.com: “Ebiketie is quiet to the edge with accurate, active hands and a pressure percentage worthy of projection. He’s not bendy and loose but uses body lean and skilled hands to grease the edge and access the pocket” while calling him a starter in two seasons tops.
For what it’s worth, Ebikete is looking like someone who will go before No. 61 in the draft. He’ll bring a tremendous value and bolster some help for Bosa and company if taken. However, the 49ers could opt to pursue Melvin Ingram in free agency, mentioned in this Heavy on 49ers article. Key is also likely to be a high priority resigning for the 49ers following his career year.
Ebikete to the ‘Niners is intriguing, but it’ll have a higher probability of happening if the trenches are decimated with free agent losses and S.F trades up to nab him.