Insider analysis: Aubrayo Franklin

Now that the 49ers are committed to the 3-4 scheme as their base defense, they need a big, space-eating nose tackle in the middle to anchor the system. Aubrayo Franklin came to the 49ers from Baltimore during the offseason, so can he step up and get the job done? Ravens expert Aaron Wilson spends some time at SFI to tell us everything there is to know about Franklin.

Aaron Wilson, San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Nolan reached into his Baltimore Ravens past by acquiring Aubrayo Franklin to become his starting nose guard, and Franklin has the requisite qualities to be a solid addition in the middle.

Franklin is a stout run-stopper and hefty enough to more than hold his own against double-team blocking and keep blockers off the inside linebackers. He's well-trained at that aspect of the game, having learned under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, a former defensive line coach who has coached Tony Siragusa, Sam Adams, Michael McCrary, Kelly Gregg, Trevor Pryce and Terrell Suggs.

Franklin is an unselfish, low-key athlete who rarely makes big plays in the backfield through penetration. He's basically a fairly athletic, stay-home run-stopping anchor with the size and strength to survive at nose guard. He should work well in tandem with Marques Douglas, another blue-collar defensive lineman who originated in Baltimore.

Franklin isn't a superstar, far from it, but he should be a pleasant upgrade in the middle because of his run recognition skills and selfless approach. He's willing to sacrifice his body so others can thrive.

Bottom line: He's an affordable starter who was well-coached as an effective role player on the NFL's top-ranked defense last season.

Craig Massei's take: In their attempt to convert to a 3-4 system as their base defense the past few years, one of the 49ers' biggest problems has been finding a player who is not only big enough to play the position, but also smart enough to recognize plays as they develop and quick enough to beat offensive linemen on the shift off the snap. Franklin has optimum bulk for the position – he's listed at 320 pounds, but might play even bigger this season – but his biggest asset is that he knows how to play the position and play within his role in the system. Nose tackle is a lunch-pail occupation that requires a player willing to do not only the dirty work but also sacrifice his body to clog the running lanes so that other teammates can make the plays. Franklin has looked seasoned in the role during the team's spring drills, where his skill at the position – because of the nature of the position – probably is less evident than at any other position on the team. The true test is when the pads go on at the end of July, which will give a better indication of how much of a force Franklin can be in trenches. But he certainly appears to be an upgrade at the postion, and an even bigger endorsement is the belief Nolan has in him to get the job done after Franklin spent the first four seasons of his career primarily as a backup. He is a necessary part to make Nolan's defensive machine hum, and in that regard looks well-suited to provide what the team expects – and needs – from him within the system.

Niners Digest Top Stories