Will another 49er under 25 make the leap this season?
NFL.com’s Nick Shook made a list of the best players in the league under 25 at each position and made a team out of it. The San Francisco 49ers saw two of their stars make the list: Nick Bosa and Fred Warner.
Despite playing roughly five quarters in 2020, Bosa still found a spot on the list:
Like Saquon Barkley, Bosa missed all but two games of the 2020 season with an ACL tear, but his Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign and sky-high potential still stand as a stronger case than others considered (i.e., Brian Burns). Bosa was only the second rookie to post nine or more sacks, 15-plus tackles for loss and 25-plus QB hits since 2006. The other player in that elite club? Von Miller. We expect Bosa to resume his journey in 2021 as the same problem-causing edge rusher who recorded four sacks in the postseason in 2019.
The jump that Burns took from Year 1 to Year 2 was precisely what the 49ers had hoped to see from Bosa. Burns only had 1.5 more sacks but nearly doubled his QB hits and pressures.
It would be tough for Bosa to double his production from his rookie season, but knowing we’ve seen the “worst” version of Bosa is funny to think about. Going back to his first year, and even Bosa’s first game last season against the Cardinals, what were his issues?
Don’t fall for a bootleg once out of every six plays. Don’t jump offsides. During the first few games, we were wondering why Bosa wasn’t finishing plays. Bosa’s issues aren’t like other players, which is why he made this list.
That Warner guy is pretty good, too:
Warner is the premier linebacker of this age group, and frankly, it’s not all that close between him and the next player on this team. Warner was the only linebacker to make Next Gen Stats’ ranking of the top 10 coverage defenders of 2020, posting numbers that were simply freakish for a second-level defender. He had the highest PFF coverage grade among all linebackers (91.1), and the second-highest mark among all players regardless of position. His first-team All-Pro selection was well-deserved, and it’s about time the 49ers reward him with a new deal.
Warner is a special player that should have gotten his recognition during the 2019 season. The love has been overwhelming since, and Warner’s pockets should be in for a nice surprise sometime before the season starts.
“Freakish” is a perfect way to describe the safety turned linebacker, as evidenced by his EPA when targeted last season:
Jerome Baker was among the most impactful cover linebackers in the NFL last season, finishing the season fourth in EPA allowed when targeted as the nearest defender (-19.3).
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) June 14, 2021
Warner, like Roquan Smith, flies around from sideline to sideline. What separates Warner is the lack of mental and physical mistakes. It’s not that he’s competent in other areas besides coverage. Warner excels against the run and is one of the best pass-rushers on a team that consistently has invested first-round picks in a defensive lineman.
That $20 million contract that’s right around the corner might feel rich, but it’s well deserved.