Solomon Thomas has had a difficult start to his NFL career. As an undersized defensive tackle prospect with excellent athleticism, there can be little doubt the 49ers had one eye on the success the Rams have had with Aaron Donald when picking Thomas in 2017.
Thomas however, was not the dominant force Donald was in college and had issues adjusting to the power, technical ability & quickness of NFL linemen, whilst himself trying to pile on weight. The steep development required of him (both physically, technically and mentally) coupled with the expectations attached to any third overall pick has arguably led to Thomas having a nigh on impossible task to satisfy 49ers’ fans and coaches, an almost impossible task made all the more difficult by the terrible loss of his sister in early 2018.
One year removed from the tragedy, Thomas says he’s ready to make his mark on the NFL. Having spent the summer working with Aaron Donald, it’ll be intriguing to watch him this season.
Experience: Third season
Thomas enters the third year of his rookie contract with a cap hit of $7,678,465 and a dead cap hit of $9,307,953.
How he might improve in 2019:
Thomas’ run defence was impressive in 2018, but he wasn’t drafted third overall to be a stud run defender. He was selected to get after the quarterback, and that’s something he hasn’t done much of yet in the NFL. As the 2018 season wore on, he showed increasing flashes of explosiveness and a plan to bring his strengths into play against guards, something which induced the 49ers to utilise him as a pass rusher on the interior increasingly.
With the increased use of wide 9 principles on the 49ers defensive line, expect Thomas to spend even more of his time on the inside as a pass rusher rather than on the edge, where he should be able to continue to bring his explosiveness into play against guards. Furthermore, we will hopefully start to see Thomas be able to chain moves together more consistently, as well as get off blocks later in the down even if his opposition initially stymies him. Until now, Thomas has often just gone with a long-arm or ineffective bull rush when initially blocked, perhaps just satisfying himself with becoming an impromptu QB spy. With an improved edge threat, being able to get off blocks, including late in the play consistently, should lead to notably more production for Thomas.
How he might regress in 2019:
The aforementioned increasing use of wide 9 principles that could see Thomas play more along the interior as a rusher could also see Thomas sit on the bench more. Compared to last season, when there were three spots along the defensive line that Thomas could theoretically compete for in many of the 49ers’ packages, now there will often only be two. As a result, he will likely be facing competition from the likes of DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Sheldon Day, Kentavius Street, Jullian Taylor, and DJ Jones to rush from the interior. Thomas will have to impress to be allowed to rush on the money downs.
Odds of making the roster:
Thomas should be a lock to make the 49ers’ 53 man roster.