To the surprise of few, the 49ers released former first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche yesterday. The move was the latest reminder that if you aren’t freakishly talented, you need not apply for Kris Kocurek’s unit.
If the 49ers’ defensive line were a nightclub, 90% of the NFL wouldn’t get past the velvet rope. Consider: Robert Nkemdice was the 29th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. While that alone doesn’t automatically make him a good player, it does mean he has physical abilities that 1% of the people on the planet possess at any given time. Those incredibly rare abilities were only able to keep him in San Francisco for less than a month.
Keep in mind, we’re not talking about a starting role here, either. We’re talking about being one of the ten or eleven best defensive linemen on the roster, and even those lower standards weren’t enough for Nkemdice to make the cut. That’s how good the rest of the defensive front is for the 49ers this year.
There’s an argument to be made that no position in football is deeper than the 49ers’ defensive line. Three out of the four starters up front are first round picks – with Arik Armstead being the lowest of that group at number 17. In fact, nine of the 14 players you could call defensive linemen on this team right now were picked in the fourth round or higher.
John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have made no secret of that fact that they wanted to build their team from the line of scrimmage out, and they’ve certainly done that on defense. This team is constructed to win up front first, and with the collection of talent they have right now, there’s no reason they won’t do that.
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