The San Francisco 49ers were able to land two of the top three players on their big board in April when they drafted Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster. They traded down from No. 2 to No. 3 to get Thomas, and then moved back into the end of the first round to land Foster.
The 49ers have plenty of expectations for their first round picks, but it will be interesting to see if either is slow out of the games. Thomas has been unable to participate in the offseason workout program due to the NFL rule against draft picks who have not graduated participating. Foster has been present and gone through individual work, but has not been able to take part in full workouts yet. He is expected to be cleared for the start of training camp.
Bucky Brooks recently took a look at some notable draft picks and offered up his thoughts on their best and worst case scenarios. He also projected some stats for them. On his list of defensive players, he included Solomon Thomas, but not Reuben Foster. Here’s what he had to say about Thomas:
Best-case scenario: Thomas has the tools to be one of the best pass rushers in this class, as a crafty quarterback hunter with cat-like quickness and violent hands. The No. 3 overall pick quickly finds his groove as a versatile edge defender on a defense that shows plenty of promise with a host of young, athletic players along the front line.
Worst-case scenario: The NFL's antiquated rule preventing Thomas from participating in summer workouts puts the rookie behind the eight ball heading into the season. Without a great feel for where he fits in the 49ers' scheme, Thomas could spend the first half of the season acclimating to the pro game before settling in as one of the team's top young playmakers.
Projected stats: 40 tackles, seven sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
I would certainly be pleased with seven sacks as a rookie, but that might be a bit of a stretch. The last time the 49ers had a player with at least seven sacks? 2013, when Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith each had 8.5 sacks. 2014 through 2016 were rough years, and the defensive scheme is getting overhauled, but it’s still a sizable mark for Thomas to reach.
That worst case is still a pretty decent scenario. A true worst case is that he’s a bust and that’s that. Brooks suggests a significantly higher floor, but given what we know about the draft, a complete washout has a greater than 0 percent chance of happening.
As always, things will likely fall somewhere in the middle. The big thing to watch with Thomas is how he is in training camp and the preseason having missed most of the offseason workout program. He has been able to speak with the coaches and other players via phone and text, and he has likely been able to view the playbook and practice film on a team-issued iPad. But the lack of on-field reps will be something to overcome when he finally gets on the field in late July. Once the camp reports start coming in, we’ll get a better idea of where he is on the depth chart, as well as the confidence (or lack thereof) the coaching staff has in him.
What do you think would be a reasonable expectation for Thomas heading into his rookie season?