Why 49ers bolstered D-line again with Jackson pick at No. 61


The 49ers feel as if they can never have too many defensive linemen.

And for the sixth time in eight years, the 49ers on Friday invested their first draft pick on the defensive front.

USC defensive end Drake Jackson heard his name called on the Las Vegas stage by Arik Armstead, whom the 49ers selected at No. 17 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft to begin this phase of D-line-minded selections.

The 49ers did not have a first-round draft pick on Thursday, so they had to wait a while to add a new player to the team.

The 49ers decided on Jackson at No. 61 overall. Jackson got the call over edge rusher Nik Bonitto of Oklahoma, whom the Broncos selected three spots later.

Jackson figures to work his way into an immediate role as a nickel pass-rusher to line up on the opposite side of Nick Bosa as part of the 49ers’ deep rotation of defensive linemen.

With a number of the 49ers’ defensive linemen on one-year contracts, Jackson figures to be a fixture up front for at least the next four seasons.

The 49ers lost D.J. Jones and Arden Key in free agency. The club will be parting ways with Dee Ford, who could never remain healthy long enough to be a factor since his arrival in a 2019 trade.

The 49ers attempted to offset those losses with the free-agent additions Kerry Hyder Jr., Hassan Ridgeway and Kemoko Turay.

Jackson’s weight swung anywhere from the mid-270s to the mid-250s during his three-year career at USC. He said his target is to play at around 255 pounds and use his athleticism on the edge in pass-rush situations.

Eventually, he could work into an every-down role, but Jackson appears best suited early in his career to get after such NFC West rival quarterbacks as Matthew Stafford, Kyler Murray and whichever quarterback lines up for the Seattle Seahawks.

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Jackson took 14 visits to NFL teams during the pre-draft process, including a trip to Santa Clara to meet with the 49ers. He spent a lot of time with defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, who is known for his fiery on-field coaching style. Jackson said he saw that kind of passion in the meeting room, too.

Kocurek has a way of bringing out the best in those he coaches, and Jackson is a good fit for the 49ers’ wide-9 style.

Samson Ebukam finished last season as the 49ers’ starter at defensive end. He registered 4.5 sacks in each of the past three seasons, including last season after coming to the 49ers following four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams.

The 49ers made Jackson their selection with the idea that he can bring a little more explosiveness to their pass rush and take some heat off Bosa.

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