No. 10: Defensive End Solomon Thomas
Rookie defensive end Solomon Thomas is on this list for a number of reasons.
First, he’s the first player drafted by John Lynch — the kickstart to what hopes to be a long line of successful Lynch picks.
In addition, Thomas is the capping piece to 49ers efforts to reinforce a defensive line that hasn’t quite been the same since former Niners defensive end Justin Smith retired back in 2015. Before Thomas came Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
And it’s possible Thomas might be the best out of the three, at least according to this chart from Pro Football Focus:
Thomas’ versatility and prowess immediately makes San Francisco’s D-line a prominent strength entering this season.
We could argue Thomas belongs higher on this list — and that may change as the season moves along — but the rookie won’t be asked to do too much in year one. No, that task will likely be reserved for Buckner.
This isn’t to say Thomas won’t get his chances. He will. But the expectation level isn’t going to be quite as high right away.
Still, Thomas is a cornerstone piece this season and for many years to come.