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2017 NFL mock draft: Why previous 1st rd picks are not significant issue for 49ers decision

A new regime and cheap rookie deals means the 49ers are not beholden to past first round picks.

The San Francisco 49ers have a lot of choices for their No. 2 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, and if they do not trade down (or up), they could choose from a handful of players. Quarterback is always on the radar, but more mock drafts have had them focusing on guys like Solomon Thomas, Malik Hooker, and Jamal Adams.

Thomas has been the fast riser in mock draft, and we see more of that in two new mocks. Peter Schrager and Bucky Brooks each unveiled their latest 2017 NFL mock drafts this week, and both have the 49ers picking Thomas. Here is what each of the analysts had to say about their picks of Thomas.

Schrager

I expect the 49ers, who signed many players to fiscally sound deals in free agency, to look at offers for the second overall pick. A talent-starved roster coming into this offseason, San Francisco could be willing to parlay the second pick into a bunch of others. But what if it keeps the choice?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Niners went defensive line for the third straight year with their first-round selection. Thomas’s stock skyrocketed at the Combine, and he’s local with a loaded resume from Stanford. Tremendous kid, great family, and a heck of a franchise cornerstone up front for San Francisco. Thomas, DeForest Buckner, and Erik Armstead could make for a scary defensive line for years to come.

Brooks

The 49ers don't need another big body in the middle, but Thomas is the top player on the board and gives them another disruptive defender to anchor an emerging defense.

There have been a lot of questions about what to do with a third straight defensive lineman in the draft. The team spent some cap space on Earl Mitchell, but the bigger question is what it means for Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. By all accounts, Thomas is not quite suited for the Leo edge rusher role, so he would likely kick inside.

On Monday, Chris Biderman broke down how Thomas might fit into the 49ers defense, and what it might mean for Armstead. He talked about whether or not Armstead would be best suited for a part-time role or if the 49ers should try and deal him to another team that runs a 3-4.

You never want to “waste” first round picks, but Armstead’s draft pedigree really doesn’t matter at this point. He’s in his third year at this point, but the 2011 CBA has made it so that talent is the only thing that matters. That might seem obvious, but prior to the 2011, rookie contracts were onerous. In 2010, the 49ers spent the 17th pick on Mike Iupati, and at that time gave him $10.8 million in guaranteed money. In 2015, the 49ers spent the 17th pick on Armstead, and gave him $9.8 million in guaranteed money. Had the rookie wage scale not changed, annual contract inflation would have meant significantly more guaranteed money for Armstead.

All of this is to say, the 49ers don’t need to worry about having a lot of money playing in more of a rotational role. A team should be obligated only to talent, but finances have a funny way of getting involved from time-to-time.

All of this still depends on how the 49ers evaluate Armstead vs. Thomas. It’s possible they find someone close enough in talent to Thomas that it’s not worth rotating out Armstead. Or, they decide Thomas is such a premium talent that it’s worth drafting the best player now and figuring out specifics later. They have some choices, and while Armstead has first round pedigree, they are not beholden to it.