San Francisco 49ers: Predicting 3 players who break out in 2020

Jerick McKinnon #28 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Jerick McKinnon #28 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Solomon Thomas, 49ers
Solomon Thomas #94 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

No. 2: Defensive End Solomon Thomas

For the past three seasons, the hope for defensive end Solomon Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick from the 2017 NFL Draft, would be to emerge as one of the most prolific frontline defenders in the league.

Entering 2020, the hope is for San Francisco to at least get some modest production out of him at all.

The Niners will need this, especially considering their blockbuster trade of defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts and the void this move created.

Thomas figures to benefit a lot from Buckner’s absence, at least in terms of field time, as he’ll see an uptick in snaps on the inside of the defensive formation. It’s here where Thomas has enjoyed the most success at the NFL level, and he’ll likely be asked to perform a bigger role than what’s been asked of him up to this point.

Yet there’s another reason why Thomas has to break out in 2020.

It’s a safe bet the 49ers won’t be picking up Thomas’ fifth-year option on his rookie deal, which would make him a free agent in 2021. For all intents and purposes, Thomas is now playing for his football career; the chance to potentially sign a halfway decent contract a year from now or, just as possible, be out of the league altogether.

If that motivation and opportunity come together correctly, there’s a slim-but-hopeful chance Thomas finally reaches the desired level San Francisco had for him back in 2017.