SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers‘ offseason pursuit of a revamped pass rush reached its apex Thursday night when they used the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft on Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa.
Bosa, widely regarded as the draft’s top edge rusher and one of the draft’s top two players overall, is the second significant addition to the 49ers’ outside pass rush this offseason. He joins defensive end Dee Ford, whom the Niners acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2020 second-round pick in March.
“Nick Bosa is a player who we have long coveted and grown in our appreciation,” general manager John Lynch said Thursday. “Probably, every time we watched him, he gets better. We’re very pleased to have him part of our organization. He adds to a very talented group on the defensive line, something that Kyle and I had as a priority when we got here.
“Two of the first things we talked about was finding our quarterback and finding the guys to knock them down. And I think, both in quality and quantity, we’ve improved drastically in that respect. That’s just a start. It gives us a chance to deliver there. I think Nick really helps us in our ability to do that.”
Lynch said Bosa is healthy and ready to go after a season-ending core muscle injury limited him to three games for the Buckeyes in 2018. Bosa is expected to attend and participate in the team’s rookie minicamp set to begin May 3, Lynch said.
As a first-round pick, Bosa follows his brother Joey, who went third to the Chargers in 2016, and his father, John, who was the 16th pick in 1987. The Bosas are the second family with a father and two sons picked in the first round in NFL history, joining Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning in that club.
Bosa is the fourth player the Niners have taken in the top three in the common draft era, joining Thomas and quarterbacks Alex Smith (2005) and Steve Spurrier (1967).
In the minds of Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan, there was never much doubt that Bosa was their man if he was available when they were on the clock at No. 2 overall. In fact, their preference for Bosa began at this year’s Rose Bowl when Lynch and vice president of player personnel Adam Peters ran into Bosa during an Ohio State practice at Stubhub Center.
There, Lynch and Peters witnessed the Buckeyes stopping their practice in the middle to greet and embrace Bosa, who had left school in October to focus on rehabbing his injury and preparing for the draft. It was a moment Lynch called “indelible” and spoke to the respect Bosa’s teammates had for him.
From there, the Niners’ affection for Bosa only grew, though Lynch acknowledged that Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams had joined Bosa in separating from the rest of the players in this year’s draft in the eyes of the franchise.
Bosa and Williams were graded very closely, Lynch said, but Bosa ultimately won out because of his fit in the defense.
“We felt like that was a piece that we still could use, another edge guy,” Lynch said. “We have Dee on one end and now we have that other end. And we can come at people in waves. When that happened, that final decision, it just kind of kept getting stronger and stronger. I think, for weeks, we’ve solidified that.”
As the draft unfolded Thursday night, the Niners received just one call while they were on the clock, but the offer wasn’t serious enough to sway them from taking Bosa.
Upon arrival in San Francisco, Bosa will be expected to team with Ford to form an outside pass rush similar to the one the Chargers have with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. He also will have plenty of proving to do after his season-ending injury in 2018.
Before that injury, Bosa was on his way to another big season, generating pressure on 21.2 percent of his pass rush attempts, which ranked second in FBS among defensive linemen with at least 60 pass rushes. In his two-plus collegiate seasons, he posted 17.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles in 26 games.
“When I visited the Niners, I knew I wanted to go there,” Bosa said. “I knew they were an unbelievable fit for me, and the people just made me feel really comfortable. The area is super nice. I mean, it’s definitely an amazing fit and I’m excited to go to work.”
As part of the pre-draft process, the 49ers spent time sorting through some of the questions that come with Bosa, including his injury history and controversial social-media practices.
Bosa suffered a torn ACL as a senior in high school in addition to the core muscle issue that ended his college career.
His approach to social media has also come under scrutiny. In a 2016 tweet, Bosa referred to former Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a “clown” and subsequent tweets garnered attention for his conservative-leaning political views and support of President Donald Trump.
In the lead up to the draft, Bosa has mostly scrubbed his accounts of his most polarizing posts and subsequently told ESPN in a recent interview that he “had to” because “there is a chance I might end up in San Francisco.”
On Wednesday, at pre-draft media availability in Nashville, Tennessee, Bosa told reporters that he’s “not really worried about Twitter anymore.”
Thursday night, Bosa said he was looking forward to moving past the social-media controversy.
“I love the Bay Area, and I’m excited to play there,” Bosa said. “I was a little insensitive in some of the things I said, so I’ve learned a lot in the past few months and I’m just ready to move forward from that, put it in the past and bring the faithful some wins.”
For their part, the 49ers said they did their diligence on all things Bosa in the months leading up to the draft. He spent time in the Bay Area as one of the team’s 30 allotted pre-draft visits and a Niners contingent had lunch with him in Columbus around Ohio State’s pro day.
San Francisco also did extensive work in talking to coaches and staff members who have previously worked with Bosa.
According to Lynch and Shanahan, that work actually began years ago, and the Niners got nothing but positive feedback on Bosa from those who know him best.
“That’s the most important thing for me,” Shanahan said. “That’s always great when you hear it, that his teammates like him. … We ended up meeting a number of people at Ohio State, about the draft, and you’re always going to ask them what they think of their teammates and stuff. And hear all those guys actually speak about Nick the way they did was very encouraging. I’m always going to go off my own experience with the person and I was very happy with the guy I got to spend time with.” Clearly, the 49ers came out of the process confident in both the player and person they’re getting in Bosa.
“We did a lot of talking to coaches, we did a lot of talking to Nick’s teammates,” Lynch said. “And what they’ll tell you is he’s one of the most beloved players that’s ever been through there. To the rest of his teammates, to his coaches and all that. And that spoke volumes to us.”