San Francisco 49ers select Arik Armstead No. 17 in 2015 NFL draft
Last one out the door in San Francisco, turn out the lights? It's tough to remember a more tumultuous off-season than the one the 49ers suffered, which is why general manager Trent Baalke was happy to move from the 15th to the 17th pick in a trade with San Diego for an additional pick this year and one next year. With Aldon Smith's future on tenterhooks, Justin Smith considering retirement and Ray McDonald taking his rap sheet to Chicago, there was a real need for defensive line help at multiple positions.
Oregon's Arik Armstead can play end or pass-rushing defensive tackle, and he has all the physical potential in the world, but the 6'7", 292-pound athletic freak is still learning the game. You'd want to see him quicker off the snap, and he's going to have to develop a more refined array of hand moves. If the 49ers are thinking of rebuilding over multiple years (and with all the defections, they should be), this pick makes sense, but Armstead could be overwhelmed early on at the NFL level.
Strengths: Combination of body type and athleticism has NFL teams drooling. Chews up tons of space against the run, on account of his size as well as his movement. Usually puts himself in good position with his quick first step. Between his height, long arms and big hands, Armstead can fire into offensive linemen and get them on their heels. Mobile in his pursuit of running backs won't go sideline to sideline but can get outside the hash marks to make a tackle. He's tough to keep blocked if a play gets extended, using those hands to free himself. Did see some snaps in coverage from his end position. Upside is astronomical, in theory.
Weaknesses: Raw traits could be viewed in a negative light by a team hoping to get an instant-impact performer up front. Has to find a way to transition from merely disrupting offenses to dominating them. His stats (16 QB hurries last season but just 2.5 sacks) show the disconnect in that regard. Almost unfathomable given his height and arm length that he did not manage a single pass deflection last season, which speaks to a need to improve his awareness. The way he uses his size right now is like a pitcher with a 100-mph fastball—spectacular starting point, but if that's all there is in the repertoire, hitters will tee off eventually. In other words, Armstead needs to find his second and third moves at the line.
Player comparison: Calais Campbell