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Solomon Thomas is flashing, just not consistently

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The 49ers top pick can be frustrating at times, but he is trending in the right direction.

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Carolina Panthers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers spent the third overall pick on defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, and results have been mixed in many ways. On the one hand, he is not getting sacks, and it feels like he disappears for stretches at a time. That’s certainly not what you want to see from someone selected that high in the draft.

On the other hand, he is still making plays. He does not have the sacks, but he is getting into the backfield quite a bit. He leads rookie defensive linemen in tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage, and over the last four weeks is tied for 14th among all NFL defensive linemen and pass rushers in tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage (DeForest Buckner is tied for 12th). Here are a couple of his more notable plays.

Over at The Athletic, John Middlekauff put together a film breakdown of the good and bad from Thomas. If you do not have an account, they are offering a week-long trial so you can give the article a read.

Middlekauff does see positives in Thomas, pointing to his short area quickness, his use of hands, and his willingness to play hard, always going full speed. On the other hand, Middlekauff pointed to Thomas’ lack of a go-to move or attribute as a pass rusher, his stiffness in space, and generally being “more of an overachiever than a dominant physical specimen.”

Thomas is not a Myles Garrett type of athletic freak, but we are seeing him make quite a few plays in the backfield. The issue is consistency. There are some games where we barely see him, and you don’t want that from a No. 3 overall pick. There are two issues potentially in play. He’s only 21, and the 49ers have yet to really settle on a position for him. He couldn’t take part in practice until training camp. Then, he started out as the backup strong side defensive end. Once Tank Carradine got hurt, he moved into that starting role, but then we also saw him get some LEO work. And of course, he also moves inside on some downs.

Some people were quick to declare Thomas a bust when he was a little slow out of the gates. He has plenty of work to do, but he has shown enough positives that I think this can go somewhere. We’d all like to see more, but I think progress is there.