Expectations for the third over pick of the 2017 draft were sky high but Solomon Thomas had the cards stacked against him. He missed rookie minicamp because of the school rule that has since been changed. He was moved from the interior of the offensive line, where he excelled at Stanford, to the edge. Thomas registered three sacks, a fumble recovery and 41 tackles over the 14 games he played in with the 49ers and started in 12.
While those stats aren’t abysmal, they aren’t what 49ers fans were expecting from their top pick. General Manager John Lynch, however, has been stalwart in stating that Thomas had a much better season than people give him credit for.
He’s a worker. I challenge anyone to say he hasn’t played extremely well. I think he’s been a very solid player. I only think it will get better. Part of our vision where he was going to really excel in this league was in the sub package, the nickel stuff as an inside rusher. We are in a complete process there so we’ve had to generate pass rush more so that has taken away from his ability to just line up on a guard and go to work on him. That’s where I think he will excel, so as we continue to add pieces I think he will get only better. I really am extremely positive on his future for a long long time for us at the 49ers. We’re very pleased with the way he’s playing.
49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner reiterated those sentiments when he spoke to the media during OTAs and discussed the potential of Thomas as he enters his sophomore season.
I think Solomon had a solid year. He came out early out of college and everything, he still had a couple things to learn but I think he had a solid year last year and I think this year is going to be a great year for him to have a break out season.
I feel like even in the meeting room he's more vocal and interacts with everyone a lot more. Last year he was kind of shy and reserved, and you can see how he’s getting a lot more comfortable around us. Even on the field, the past couple days, it’s still early, we’re still in shorts and a helmet but, I can see the development from last year to this year.
Last year he was a little frustrated here and there and I feel like this year he’s really doing a lot better job with staying out of his head.
There, of course, is a lot of potential for the entire defensive line group to improve, working together in the same system for the second year in a row. Unfortunately, the team was unable to hit on one of the few edge rushers in the draft focusing more on the offense and finding a plan B for the Reuben Foster situation. They added Jerry Attaochu and extended Cassius Marsh to help on the edge which will hopefully be enough to allow Thomas to play more in the interior where he has had success in the past.
Lynch and his team as well as head coach Kyle Shanahan are building for the long haul and this is evident in their roster choices. Next year’s draft should be much more plentiful in the edge rusher category which would then put Thomas squarely back where he should succeed for his skill set and his size. They are trying to remind you that patience is a virtue young grasshopper.