The 49ers, who may be missing two long-time starters on their defensive line when the season begins, will meet with a possible replacement later this month. According to multiple sources, one of the team's 30 official visits will go to Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead, who grew up in Sacramento.
At 6-7, 292 pounds, Armstead (Pleasant Grove High) is one of the most imposing figures in the draft, and there is a sense that the junior only will get bigger -- and better -- with time. Armstead played basketball and football his first two seasons at Oregon. Last year, he focused solely on football, starting 13 games on the defensive line and finishing with 16 quarterback hurries and 2 1/2 sacks.
NFL evaluators are impressed that for a man his size Armstead, 21, has "quick twitch" abilities. That is, he fires off the line of scrimmage quickly and has a burst uncommon for someone who weighs nearly 300 pounds. He had a 34-inch vertical leap at the combine, which tied for the top mark among defensive tackles at the event.
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San Francisco's former starter at left defensive end, Ray McDonald, had similar traits. The 49ers, however, dismissed McDonald in December after he became the subject of a police investigation for the second time in four months. The Bears recently signed him to a one-year contract.
Meanwhile, the team's starter on the other side of the line, Justin Smith, has not decided whether he will return for a 15th season.
The 49ers signed veteran Darnell Dockett in free agency to take over one of the spots. If Smith doesn't return, the other could be filled by one of a number of young but unproven players, including Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial and Tony Jerod-Eddie. Veteran Glenn Dorsey, who played nose tackle for the 49ers in 2013, also is capable of lining up as an end in their 3-4 scheme.
“You look at the defensive line, the outside linebackers,” coach Jim Tomsula said at last month's owner's meeting in Phoenix. “The depth on the defensive line right now is as deep as we’ve ever had it. I’m real excited about the guys we have there.”
The 49ers haven't taken a defensive lineman in the first round since Kentwan Balmer in 2008.
Armstead is projected to be taken anywhere from the middle of the first round to the end of the round. He's one of two Sacramento products visiting the team in coming weeks. Receiver Vince Mayle, who played at Inderkum and was a rival of Armstead's at Washington State, also will visit.
Of the six first-round picks general manager Trent Baalke has taken since he started running the 49ers' draft, only one -- safety Eric Reid in 2013 -- did not pay a visit to the 49ers before the draft.
Armstead has been preparing for the draft alongside fellow Sacramento product Shaq Thompson, a linebacker from Washington. The Bee has been following their journey:
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