By: Dillon Frazier (@dillonfrazier98)
Final Edit: (@Zachhernan)
Going into the 2017 NFL Draft, the 49ers’ first round pick was one of the biggest question marks of the entire draft. When John Lynch said that he wanted to create a more in-house organization that keeps everyone on a need-to-know basis, he really meant it. Potential prospects for the 49ers’ first pick reached double digits and this left us with merely speculations and educated guesses as to who it would be.
With his first draft under his belt, many believe John Lynch hit a home-run. This is largely in part to the stellar first round in which Chicago sent away just about everything they could to the 49ers to move from third to second with the 49ers still getting the guy they wanted in Solomon Thomas as well as trading back into the late first round to get sliding prospect, Reuben Foster. In this article I will take a look at the number three overall pick, Solomon Thomas and how he will fare as a 49er.
Thomas is considered to be one of the most polished, NFL-ready players from this draft. He has the leadership qualities to be a future team captain as well as a cornerstone of the defense. Thomas also has an incredible football IQ which gives him the ability to read plays very well. One of Thomas’ best qualities is his immense hustle, this hustle gives him extreme speed coming off the line which can mean the difference on any given play. For instance, let me take you back to the Sun Bowl where Stanford faces off versus UNC. Mitchell Trubisky throws touchdown to put the Tarheels down by two with 25 seconds left in the game. On the 2-point conversion, Thomas uses this speed off the ball to immediately bust through the line and get to Trubisky and take him down to win the game, also showing off a clutch gene in him
Receiving a 9.3 on Optimum Scouting’s 2017 Draft Guide, Thomas only had one DE ranked higher (#1 overall pick Myles Garret). Thomas has been compared to players such as J.J. Watt, Michael Bennett, Aaron Donald, and Cameron Wake. This leaves him with a lot to live up to, as a run first player he excels at run stopping and is a plug at the line wherever he is placed. One of Thomas’s feature talents is his ability to shed blockers quickly and easily giving him the ability to pressure the quarterback or stop a run.
While Solomon is a great player there are still a lot of concerning areas that come to mind. One that is most evident to 49ers fans is that this is the third season in a row we have used a first-round pick on a defensive lineman and, even under the new regime, the repetition can be seen as annoying and useless. As a player, Thomas can also take a lot of flak for his size. At 273 pounds and only 33 inch arms, scouters fear that he does not fit well as an interior lineman and potentially does not have a true NFL position. The size problem can come up mostly on double teams, which is an area where Thomas struggles massively. Now yes, I know that this is the purpose of a double team, two big men should beat one, but a first-round pick defensive lineman should be able to play those double teams and not be taken completely away from the line of scrimmage.
Some other minor downsides to thomas include the occasional mishap in predicting snap counts as well as missing some tackles he shouldn’t, both of which can be solved with some good coaching, but my biggest downside on Solomon is vastly apparent in the aforementioned Sun Bowl tape. While Thomas made the game winning play as well as some other crucial ones throughout the game, one very unsettling characteristic seemed to stick out. On numerous plays Thomas seems to give up on plays before they end, once the play passed him he would just jog through. Anyone that played even high school football knows that you play until the whistle blows and if the play passes you, you run after it to make sure the tackle happens for sure. Now to advocate for Thomas, this doesn’t come up that much in other film, so maybe it was just something about this game. For our sake I hope Thomas proves me wrong and completely shuts down that fear.
Overall, Thomas is one stellar player that could be a great addition to this 49er team on the rise. There are holes you can pick in every player from the draft; some of it will be true and some will just be incorrect speculations. At the end of the day this is the guy that John Lynch wanted as his first draft pick to start his era, meaning that he sees something extremely special in this kid. Not to mention that with Buckner, Armstead, Foster, and Solomon Thomas all being young, first round picks as well as Earl Mitchell and the great Navarro Bowman, this could be the budding of the next elite NFL front seven.