The San Francisco 49ers took DL Arik Armstead at No. 17 overall after trading down two spots with the San Diego Chargers at the 2015 NFL Draft. They picked up a fourth round draft pick (used to select TE Blake Bell) and a fifth-round draft pick in 2016.
Listed at 6-7 and 292 pounds, Armstead is one of the largest and most athletic defensive linemen from the draft. He has a 33-inch arm length and the 49ers liked him for his abilities at the rare size he possesses.
“He is unique in the sense that he is 6-7,” General Manager Trent Baalke said. “He’s 295-plus pounds. He runs [a 40-yard dash] in the five-flat range. He is a tremendous athlete for his size and for that position. Four techniques are hard to find in the National Football League. True four techniques are guys that can two gap, play with leverage, leverage blocks and control the line of scrimmage. That is a big part of what we do here. In any given draft, there are four or five. I’m not sure that we’ve ever had more than five on our board that we felt were draftable.”
With Armstead’s strength in the four technique, Baalke expects him to be a force in the long term. He is currently labeled as a project for his lack of production, but the team is willing to trust their coaching staff and develop him.
Enter new head coach Jim Tomsula, who has been with the organization since 2007 being in charge of the defensive line. In the past, Tomsula worked with Ray McDonald, Justin Smith, Ricky Jean Francois, Isaac Sopoaga and Ian Williams, who all proved to be adequate. Smith’s career was elevated when he became a member of the 49ers in 2008, having five straight Pro Bowl honors as well as being an All-Pro from 2011-2013.
Armstead has the ability to gain leverage on offensive linemen with his strength and hands. His length also allows him to have a larger range in tackling, something that can’t be coached. If the technique and coaching from Tomsula can be effective, Armstead has the potential to be a great pass rusher and run stopper.
His primary role at Oregon was to be disruptive on the defensive line and he didn’t record many sacks. He was a part-time basketball player who made the full-time commitment to football in his sophomore season. Armstead said he believes he is ready for the NFL and it will be a great challenge ahead.
“I don’t think I’m raw,” Armstead said in a conference call. “I think if you watch film of me, you’ll see a technical, sound player. I think I have a lot of room to grow and a lot of things to improve on. I’m looking forward to doing that with the coaching staff there.”