Each year, we like to run a series of posts called "90-in-90." The idea is that we'll take a look at every player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few ways. This roster will certainly change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not exactly 90 players in 90 days. At this point, it's a name we're keeping around for street cred.
The San Francisco 49ers spent a third round pick in the recent NFL Draft on Clemson offensive guard Brandon Thomas. The pick represented another red shirt opportunity for the team. Thomas suffered a torn ACL during his April workout with the New Orleans Saints, which all but guaranteed he would be unable to participate in football activities for most of 2014.
Prior to his injury, Thomas was viewed as a second round pick, and very well might have slid his way into the end of the first round. Thomas was the starting left tackle at Clemson in 2012 and 2013. Prior to that he had bounced between tackle and guard. Although he could probably provide emergency help at tackle, all indications are that he will slide inside to guard in the NFL. You can check out Nick's scouting report from late last month.
What to expect in 2014 and beyond:
Thomas will spend 2014 on the team's NFI list. That means he will be able to watch practice, watch film, and work with the coaches, but he will not be able to actually participate in practice. If he starts the season on the NFI list, as expected, the team has a three week window during the season where Thomas can join practice without being activated to the 53-man roster. I could see the team getting him out there for some walk throughs like they did with Luke Marquardt last season, but they will not activate him to the 53-man roster.
The question then becomes what to expect in 2015 and beyond. The 49ers have big question marks at guard. Mike Iupati will be a free agent after this coming season, while Alex Boone will be a free agent after the 2015 season. Oh, and Boone is also holding out right now. The 49ers addition of Thomas and Marcus Martin (whether it be him or Daniel Kilgore winning center) provides some options if the 49ers find themselves short of Iupati and/or Boone.
Odds of starting in 2015:
Joe Looney and Adam Snyder are going to get the most opportunities at backup guard in 2014. Both will get a crack at the starting right guard position if Boone's holdout lasts into the season. However, beyond that, it's entirely up in the air. Adam Snyder is on the back side of his career, and we really don't know what Joe Looney can do long term. If Boone holds out into the season, we'll pretty much find out everything we need to know about Looney, good or bad. If Boone returns before the start of the regular season, we can still learn something if the team cuts Snyder and promotes Looney into that primary backup guard role.
What does all this mean for Brandon Thomas? Well, if/when Iupati walks after this season, there is one starting job that will open up. My guess is the competition ends up as Brandon Thomas vs. Joe Looney. The big question mark is what the 49ers do with Alex Boone. If he does not report in time for the start of the regular season, the 49ers might have to consider a trade given that Boone still would have another year under contract with dissatisfaction. That could in turn open up the second guard position for 2015 (or even 2014). I'm not enjoying having players holding out, but it does provide some interesting competition in training camp.