Nick Bosa had a pretty good idea what was going to happen within the first few minutes of the NFL draft in late-April.
Bosa, his family and some close friends were seated within a large tent installed just off-stage from the crowd that gathered at First and Broadway in Nashville. They were in the green room with many of the other individuals who would be first-round draft picks -- whose futures would be determined by the organizations that chose them.
The Arizona Cardinals had the first pick in the draft, and new head coach Kliff Kingsbury was among a group that twice met up with Bosa for dinner in the weeks leading up to the draft. They never revealed their intentions to Bosa.
“I was definitely curious to see if they’d pick me No. 1,” Bosa said this week. “I’d heard Kyler Murray was going to be the pick, but I didn’t know. So I was just waiting anxiously, and I heard his family go crazy, so . . . “
So ... what the 49ers hoped would happen, happened.
Bosa, widely considered the top edge rusher in the draft, was heading to the 49ers, owners of the No. 2 overall pick. And Bosa became the fifth first-round draft choice to have a spot on the team’s defensive line.
“I didn’t know too much about the 49ers until closer to the draft,” Bosa said. “I started to look into who might get me. And I just saw all the talent they had, all the talent they picked up with Kwon (Alexander) and Dee (Ford), and I saw how they had a good offensive line, the quarterback obviously got hurt (in 2018).
“All the pieces were in place, so it was definitely one of my top destinations I wanted to come to.”
Just one of the top or the top?
“It was the top, yeah,” Bosa said.
The 49ers’ decision, which was made far in advance of the draft, came down to Bosa or Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. The 49ers certainly did not need another defensive tackle to join a depth chart that already consisted of DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas, along with D.J. Jones and Sheldon Day.
“The Arizona Cardinals made a wise choice for them, and fortunately for us, because of need, there was a player that we very much coveted and had decided if he was there, he’s our guy,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said.
Lynch said the decision was not necessarily a “no-brainer” because he, coach Kyle Shanahan and the personnel and coaching staffs had high opinions of Williams, too.
“We really studied that hard,” Lynch said. “But I remember Kyle and I looking at each other, ‘Hey, to complete the puzzle, we need edge.’ We had added Dee Ford and we felt like there was one more piece to it.
“We felt like ultimately we loved Bosa as a complete football player and the fact that he was the edge player, it became a pretty simple decision for us. He’s been outstanding thus far.”
Bosa this week was named winner of NFC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season. He recorded three sacks and an interception in the 49ers’ 51-13 victory over the Carolina Panthers. He was also named NFC Defensive Player of the Month, as well as NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month.
Bosa leads the 49ers with seven sacks, six of which came during the recent four-game stretch. And he will clearly be in the spotlight Thursday night when he goes up against the team that had the No. 1 overall pick.
Bosa said he harbors no ill-will against the Cardinals for making the best decision for them.
“They needed a quarterback, so they picked a quarterback,” Bosa said.
Bosa might be lining up Thursday night for the Cardinals if not for the team’s decision to fire coach Steve Wilks after just one season.
The hiring of Kliff Kingsbury set the wheels in motion for the Cardinals to select a quarterback to with the top pick in the draft that was a better fit for his spread offense. Like Wilks, Cardinals decided to move on from quarterback Josh Rosen after just one season.
“We loved Nick Bosa the entire process,” Kingsbury said this week on a conference call with the Bay Area media. “He’s a phenomenal person, competitor, player. What you’re seeing him do week-in and week-out is kind of the expectation.
“We have a coach (linebackers coach Bill Davis) on our staff that was at Ohio State, so we had intimate knowledge of his work ethic and who he is. So we were all on board, all fired up about him. We ended up taking Kyler. We thought that was the best move for our organization. But we knew whoever was going to take Nick was going to get a dominant player in this league.”
The Cardinals’ plan for Bosa would have been to use him as a stand-up linebacker, Kingsbury said. The idea was shared with Bosa, who said he was up for the position switch, even if he knew he was not a perfect fit for a 3-4 defense.
“They definitely were selling me on the two-point stance, and I was buying into it,” Bosa said. “There were good things we could’ve done with it, and I’m sure I would’ve gotten used to it and been fine. But I think for my full potential to be reached, I think I’m in the right place, the right defense.”