The San Francisco 49ers possess a curious case in edge rusher Aaron Lynch. Lynch is a beast but he can also be completely invisible at times.
Aaron Lynch was drafted in the 2014 NFL Draft with the 150th overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers. He was a highly touted athlete with some upside as he had previously played college ball with Notre Dame prior to transferring to South Florida.
While at both schools, Lynch balled out wreaking havoc against opposing quarterbacks. However, he came with some baggage. It was the baggage that caused him to get transferred from Notre Dame in the first place. Were it not for the off-the-field issues, Lynch should have been drafted higher as his pass-rushing ability is special at times.
Still, in his first season, Lynch soared in Pro Football Focus‘ pass rush productivity which measures a pass-rusher’s disruptive effectiveness on a per play basis. Using PFF’s metric (10.3), Lynch was a top-10 pass rusher in his rookie season.
Since then, Lynch has been an off-and-on again player. Which raises many questions about why Lynch has failed to regain the level of performance he did in 2014. Coming into that year, Lynch was lambasted by USF’s strength and conditioning coach. Actually, that same coach also called out the 49ers for drafting a player with such questionable “integrity and character”.
More from NFL Spin Zone
- Dallas Cowboys made the trade everyone else should have made
- Pittsburgh Steelers rookie sleeper everyone should be talking about
- Anthony Richardson putting jaw-dropping talent on display immediately
- Denver Broncos’ stud wide receiver might be out for a while
- Washington Commanders: Three takeaways from win over Ravens
This statement certainly raised many eyebrows. This was then further confirmed by then head coach Jim Harbaugh, who stated that Lynch “needs direction”, per Sporting News. At that time, the 49ers were already dating with problem child Aldon Smith. Smith was a supremely gifted edge rusher who had the talent of a Hall-of-Famer.
That sounds like hyperbole, but anyone who has seen Smith play in his prime knows it is not. Smith and Lynch were two gifted players at edge rushing positions. Lynch understood that he had an opportunity for playing time with Smith’s legal and personal troubles, but to accomplish that he would need to prove his “first-round talent”.
In his first season, he had a seasoned coach to push him. The 49ers had a structured support system to mentor him. Plus, he had an elite athlete that pushed him. When Harbaugh and Smith left, Lynch no longer had anyone to push him.
When Lynch is on, he is a mauling beast. But when he’s not focused, he is overweight, slow, sloppy and unmotivated. What will the 49ers get this season? Will the 49ers get the savage that is the 2014 Lynch, or will the 49ers get the doughy Lynch who would rather coast on easy street?
Regardless, the San Francisco 49ers need to see what they have in him come training camp. He is just too talented at this point to cut outright.