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PFF names Solomon Thomas as 49ers’ biggest mistake in past 5 drafts

Thomas is eligible to become a free agent this offseason.

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Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers have added some significant pieces through the draft since general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan took over in 2017. The team has selected cornerstone pieces like Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Fred Warner and Deebo Samuel with some of their picks, which helped set the nucleus for a Super Bowl run during the 2019 season.

The Niners’ first pick under the current regime was defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. San Francisco was initially slated to pick second but wound up making a deal with the Chicago Bears that saw the 49ers move back one spot to select the Stanford product.

Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus put together a list of each NFL teams’ biggest draft mistake over the five years. For San Francisco, his choice is Thomas:

The 49ers have not shied away from building through their defensive line. They’ve picked one in the first round four of the last five years. Only Thomas, though, has proven unworthy of his draft slot. He’s yet to earn higher than a 62.5 overall grade in a single season. He was always a tweener playing inside at Stanford at 280 and never had a position in the NFL.

Thomas is eligible to become a free agent this offseason after the Niners declined his fifth-year option. The 25-year-old has recorded 95 tackles and just 6 sacks since becoming a pro. Thomas tore his ACL in the Week 2 win over the New York Jets and missed the rest of the 2020 campaign.

Hindsight is always 20/20 when looking back at NFL Drafts, but the 49ers undoubtedly missed out on some high-end talent in 2017. Some of the players picked in the top-15 after Thomas include Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Jamal Adams, Christian McCaffrey and Marshon Lattimore.

Lynch made a second mistake at the 2017 draft. He traded back into the first round and sent a second and fourth-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks for the No. 31 selection to take linebacker Reuben Foster.

Foster, who left the NFL Combine early after getting into a “heated argument” with a hospital worker, had a strong rookie season finishing with 72 tackles and five QB hits in 10 games. Pro Football Focus gave him an 81.2 grade in his first year as a pro, tops among all rookie linebackers.

Unfortunately, Foster’s off the field problems carried over to 2018. The NFL suspended Foster for the first two games of his sophomore season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. He was then arrested for domestic violence during the season, which led to his release from the Niners.

Since then, San Francisco has taken Mike McGlinchey, Nick Bosa, Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk in the first round.

Another player the 49ers whiffed on is wide receiver, Dante Pettis. Lynch traded up to take Pettis with 44th selection, who was cut earlier this season. Pettis just never lived up to his potential both as a pass-catcher and return man.

The Niners have done well in the mid-to-late rounds, taking players like Warner (third round), Kittle and Dre Greenlaw (fifth round) and D.J. Jones (sixth round).

Who do you think are the best and worst draft picks of the current regime?