Another defensive lineman? It’s a fair question, but the 49ers need versatility in their front seven to compliment Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas can help in that regard. Versatile and relentless are common descriptions of Thomas’ game. He can line up along the edge of a base 4-3 or 3-4 and play down the defensive line. His biggest asset is the constant effort he brings to every play that has been missing from the San Francisco defense since the departure of Justin Smith.
Thomas’ ability to disrupt against the run is contagious and he was rated as the best run defender in college football by Pro Football Focus. Fans don’t want to think back to last season but it is worth mentioning that the 49ers run defense was historically bad, allowing the most points, rushing yards, and touchdowns in team history. Adding a proven run stopper that can slide to various positions on the line will also create a rotation with Thomas, Armstead, and Buckner. Ideally this would keep all three players fresh as the course of the game and season wear on.
The San Francisco 49ers Should Draft Solomon Thomas
The Seattle Impact
There won’t be a turnaround in San Francisco until the team can compete within its own division. That means taking down Seattle, a challenge which is only possible if the talent level on the roster can improve greatly. Beating Seattle requires having a defensive line that can control the running game while also possessing the athleticism to chase down Russell Wilson.
New defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is very familiar with Seattle’s defense having spent three seasons on that staff. His goal will be to recreate the defense that has made Seattle a fixture amongst the NFC elite. For San Francisco, adding Thomas to the front seven with Amstead and Buckner will give the 49ers an athletic group that can win at the line of scrimmage and pursue Wilson limiting his signature improvisational plays.
The new 4-3 defense that Saleh will deploy is dependent on having the right player at the “LEO” position. That player typically lines up wide of the defensive end and is the team’s best pass rusher. Functioning as a hybrid linebacker and defensive end means that the player will switch discipline and assignments throughout the game. He sets the edge as a defensive end in a 3-4 while also being able to scream off the line of scrimmage as a pass rusher.
Arizona – Thomas showed off his versatility by playing every spot on the defensive line throughout the game.
Notre Dame – In a show down against the Irish, he dominated from start to finish and filled up the stat sheet along the way. He tallied 12 total tackles, a forced fumble, and 1.5 sacks. He was a dominant force throughout the game.
North Carolina – Most people tuned in to watch Mitchell Trubisky and the rest of the offense but it was Thomas who got all the attention. In the final game of his college career, Thomas decided to finish things off in convincing fashion as he stifled a two point conversion attempt and shut the door on North Carolina
Why not Jonathan Allen or a Quarterback?
During the build up to the draft there are always rumors or “concerns” that seem to rise out of no where and then impact a player’s draft stock. For Jonathan Allen, the concerns center around his string of shoulder injuries and surgeries in college. In terms of where he would fit on the roster, Allen would most likely cycle in at defensive end or defensive tackle. While it would be extremely beneficial to add a player of Allen’s potential to the line it would not address the need of a dedicated pass rusher on the edge or in the LEO role.
The additions of Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley set the stage for the quarterback of the future to be drafted this year. So why not do it at the top of the first round? I feel that the team has so many needs they can justify getting an impact player that will be able to contribute right away to the team. If the plan for any of their drafted quarterbacks is to be groomed on the bench, then selecting one outside of the number two pick makes the most sense for the franchise. Kyle Shanahan has been able to get production out of a variety of quarterbacks during his time as offensive coordinator of the Browns, Redskins, and Falcons. With a volume of options at the position in the draft this year, it would only make sense to take one of them with the second pick if he truly falls in love with either Trubisky or Deshaun Watson‘s apparent upside and skill set.
Conclusion and a Trade Rumor
The first wave of free agent signings allows the team to wait on drafting their quarterback of the future (stay tuned for my thoughts on who the team might be targeting). In the first draft of the new regime, it will be important to add an immediate impact player instead of one that would be better off sitting. The first round of this draft appears to be filled with talent along the defensive side of the ball and missing out on an elite player during a loaded class is not a luxury that any rebuilding team can afford. John Lynch knows that the defense is built from the front and the opportunity to pluck a talented player from his alma mater will be too much to pass up.
Of course the draft build up is not complete without a fresh trade rumor as the Carolina Panthers are rumored to be interested in the second overall pick. The Panthers currently have two picks in the second round which could come into play for this type of a trade up. Perhaps Carolina is targeting a pass rusher as well? Or maybe they want to add one of the top ranked safeties to their defense. Trading down has been a common talking point amongst Niner fans this offseason and as long as they don’t end up trading too far back in the first round it could end up being the best case scenario for them. Netting additional picks while still selecting in the top ten opens up the team’s options as they can still focus on a pass rusher or address one of their other needs. Trading down to Carolina’s eighth spot will create a variety of scenarios for San Francisco. Let’s see how the next three weeks unfold leading up to the draft.