San Francisco 49ers

49ers’ best draft fits: ‘Elephant’ defensive end

In this Sept. 24, 2016, file photo, Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett (9) watches from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Florida, in Knoxville, Tenn.
In this Sept. 24, 2016, file photo, Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett (9) watches from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Florida, in Knoxville, Tenn. AP

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

Position: 'Elephant' or 'Leo' defensive end

Description: This spot goes to the best pass rusher on the defense. Because the player lines up on the weak side (mostly the right side of the defense), the 'elephant' usually doesn't have to worry about double teams but must be able to beat the opposition's best offensive lineman, the left tackle. Contrary to the name, the 'elephant' doesn't have to be a big player, but usually is the most athletic member of the defensive front line. Charles Haley, Rickey Jackson and Chris Doleman all have played the spot for the 49ers in the past. Haley was was 6-5, 255 pounds at the time. Cliff Avril (6-3, 260) plays it for the Seahawks.

Who's there now: The 49ers have penciled in Aaron Lynch at the spot, although others, like Tank Carradine, could be used in the role. Lynch came on strong his rookie year in 2014 with six sacks in three starts. But he didn't build on that when he became a starter the following year and was suspended for the first four games last season. He also gained a lot of weight during his suspension, reaching 300 pounds, he said. Carradine, meanwhile, has fallen far short of his second-round draft status but at the elephant would be playing a role similar to how he was used at Florida State. Carradine, who once was as high as 300 pounds, is now in he 260-pound range.

Need level: 8.7

Perfect fit: Texas A&M's Myles Garrett is considered the best edge rusher in the draft and would be ideal at this spot. Garrett, however, is likely to be taken with the No. 1 overall pick by the Browns. The best chance for the 49ers to grab him may be by moving into the No. 1 spot. Next on the list is Derek Barnett, who took over the University of Tennessee's total sack record from Reggie White last season. Barnett is relentless and uses his hands very well but does not have Garrett's athleticism. Most draft observers don't think he's worthy of a Top 10 selection, although his body of work in college is more impressive than any other pass rusher's, including Garrett, this year. Others: Charles Harris, Missouri; Tim Williams, Alabama; Takkarist McKinley, UCLA; Jordan Willis, Kansas State; Tarell Basham, Ohio; Tyus Bowser, Houston; Derek Rivers, Youngstown State; Carl Lawson, Auburn; Ejuan Price, Pitt; Devonte Fields, Louisville.

From earlier:

Left defensive end

Strong-side linebacker

Nose tackle

Three technique

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

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