San Francisco 49ers

49ers’ best draft fits: strong-side linebacker

Wisconsin's T.J. Watt celebrates after a sack during an NCAA college football game against Akron Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Madison, Wis.
Wisconsin's T.J. Watt celebrates after a sack during an NCAA college football game against Akron Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Madison, Wis. AP

This item is part of series on the positions the 49ers will try to fill in the draft and the players that are the best fits at those spots. Today's position:

Strong-side or SAM linebacker

Description: This position mostly plays along the line of scrimmage -- usually outside of the left defensive end -- giving the defense a de facto fifth defensive lineman. The role in San Francisco's 2017 defense is similar to how the 49ers have used their outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense in recent years. The player at this spot must be a good pass rusher, stout enough to stop the run and fluid enough to run with tight ends. In Seattle’s defense, Bruce Irvin is perhaps the most well-known player who has lined up in this spot.

Who's there now: The 49ers have penciled in Ahmad Brooks and Eli Harold at the spot. Brooks is a nice fit for the position. The problem is that at 33 he's the oldest member of the defense (Brooks is the only defensive player in his 30s) and only is signed through the upcoming season.

Need level: 5.5

Perfect fit: Jordan Willis, Kansas State. Willis was a hand-on-the-ground defensive end for the Wildcats, but he showed off how athletic he was at the scouting combine, including running a 4.53-second 40-yard dash at 255 pounds. Others: T.J. Watt, Wisconsin; Derek Rivers, Youngstown State; Alex Anzalone, Florida.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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