Reuben Foster was the San Francisco 49ers’ star first-round pick in 2017 (he has a lot of other problems now, problems more serious than football, but on the field he was good, and that hasn’t changed), while Solomon Thomas was mostly just ... there. Thomas was ineffective as a pass rusher, and didn’t make any big plays despite being the No. 3 overall pick.
Meanwhile, the 49ers found quality starters in cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (66th overall), tight end George Kittle (146th overall), slot receiver Trent Taylor (177th overall) and safety Adrian Colbert (229th overall). Foster was 31st overall.
But, as the folks at Pro Football Focus correctly point out: you shouldn’t panic. Thomas was the 49ers’ top pick for a reason, and there is a lot of room to grow, especially on a unit that should be improved from top to bottom in 2018. At PFF, they listed Thomas among 10 second-year players who could (and should) bounce back from rough rookie campaigns.
Solomon Thomas finished his rookie season ranked 92nd out of 106 qualified edge defenders in terms of overall grade, certainly not what you’re hoping for out of the third-overall pick in the draft. The 49ers had a bit of a log-jam along the defensive line when they selected him in the first round and to alleviate that, they decided to play Thomas on the edge – lining him up outside of the offensive tackle – after he spent virtually all of 2015 and 2016 lining up as an interior defender for Stanford. Despite the position change, Thomas still flashed some above-average play in run-defense (his 79.3 run-defense grade ranked 45th) and he closed out the season on a relative high note, finishing two of his final three games with an overall grade of at least 70.0 (a number he passed just five times all season).
Thomas is listed third, with an overall grade of 53.2, which is pretty dang low on their scale. The lowest-graded player on the list is Green Bay Packers cornerback Kevin King (41.0), while the highest is Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis (65.3). Click through the full piece above to see all the writeups.
I liked Thomas against the run, and as they note, that was his strength. I just am not sure he has the arsenal of pass-rushing moves to make an effective edge player. He needs a lot of work, but maybe an offseason will do him some good.