Nick Bosa was the first defensive player off the board in last April’s draft and he never made the 49ers think twice about their decision to take him with the second overall pick.
Bosa missed the preseason because of an ankle injury, but recovered in time to open the year with a sack in a win over the Buccaneers. He’d go on to pick up six more sacks as the team began the year with eight straight wins, which had people talking about him as a potential defensive player of the year.
He’d only pick up two more sacks over the second half of the season and that buzz has died out, but Bosa has continued generating pressure and had nine quarterback hits over the final four weeks of the year. Those performances came without Dee Ford drawing attention at the other defensive end spot, which allowed defenses to devote more resources to slowing Bosa and also opened up chances for others in the front seven to make plays.
Bosa finished the year with 47 tackles, 25 quarterback hits, 16 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, an interception and two fumble recoveries to with his nine sacks. That productivity as part of one of the league’s stingiest defenses has made Bosa PFT’s choice as the defensive rookie of the year.
Bosa’s top competition for the top spot came from another pass rusher. Josh Allen had 10.5 sacks after being selected seventh overall by the Jaguars and formed a strong tandem with Yannick Ngakoue off the edge, although it will be short-lived if the team can’t come to terms on an extension with Ngakoue this offseason.
White missed three games with injuries while racking up 91 tackles, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, 2.5 sacks, an interception and two touchdowns for the Buccaneers. Bush tailed off after having four fumble recoveries and two interceptions in the first half of the Steelers season, but the overall package was one that should leave the Steelers confident about his future in their defense.