DeForest Buckner has been traded away, but Javon Kinlaw was drafted in the opening round of the 2020 NFL Draft thereafter.
Thus, the San Francisco 49ers will once again have five first-round defensive linemen on their roster and aiming to wreak havoc upon opposing quarterbacks.
The Nick Bosa-led band of chaos makers tallied 45 sacks – including their run to the Super Bowl – last season to set a single-season record for the most sacks by a collection of first-round picks, according to NFL Research. But after a noticeable regression down the stretch for the 49ers defense and the loss of Buckner, the question for the reigning NFC champions lingers as to whether San Francisco's No. 1 pass defense can continue to excel in 2020?
In 2019, the 49ers allowed the fewest passing yards per game at 169.2, thanks in large part to the first-round five of Bosa (2019), Buckner (2016), Arik Armstead (2015), Dee Ford (2014) and Solomon Thomas (2017).
The 2019 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Bosa had nine sacks in the regular season and made an immediate impact, though it was Armstead's 10 sacks which led the team and nabbed him an $85 million deal across five years this offseason. Buckner, who had 62 tackles and 7.5 sacks, was shipped to the Colts for a first-round selection used for South Carolina's Kinlaw. Thomas played in all 16 games, but recorded just two sacks and 21 tackles with three starts, while Ford struggled to stay on the field with 11 games played and two starts, but made the most of it, as the former Chief had 6.5 sacks.
The talent is present, but being able to sustain stellar play will be a lingering quandary in more ways than one.
For starters comes the question about the Super Bowl hangover and the 49ers' recovering to achieve the form that led them to a 13-3 season. There's also the matter of San Francisco allowing 12.8 points and 241 yards per game along with 3.8 sacks through Week 9, but then allowing 26 points, 322.6 yards and tallying just 2.3 sacks the remainder of the regular season.
How Kinlaw fares and whether Thomas can improve from a season in which he graded out at 54.5 per Pro Football Focus could be crucial factors.
Nonetheless, with a quintet of top-round talent, the time is still now for the 49ers.