No. 3: SF 49ers Defensive End Solomon Thomas
We’ve reached the point where fourth-year defensive end Solomon Thomas will never live up to the hype associated with a top-three pick in the NFL Draft. And Thomas, following three years in which he recorded a total of just six sacks, saw a decrease in field time from 60 percent of the defense’s snaps in 2018 to just 41 percent a year ago.
But injuries along the defensive line’s interior, namely to nose tackle D.J. Jones, have prompted coordinator Robert Saleh to try putting Thomas into a base-down 1-technique role, as well as giving the former Stanford product a lot of work in sub packages in a 3-technique job while San Francisco’s top pick from this year’s draft, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, continues to develop.
And Thomas has seized the opportunity.
A bit undersized for a true 1-technique, Thomas has still been sound with his movements and agility, frequently outworking the 49ers’ interior blockers during practices. It’s not going unnoticed by NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco, who wrote:
"Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said he is confident Thomas can perform well at defensive tackle because he has shown in game situations that he “won’t get displaced.” His quickness at the snap — a strength of his in the past — looks even more explosive this summer. He figures to be an important piece to the team’s interior defensive line. DeForest Buckner was traded to the Indianapolis Colts. Rookie Javon Kinlaw is being groomed as the starter. But Kinlaw figures to be only a two-down player while he becomes more of a factor with his pass rush."
This could potentially give Thomas a significant role, at least to start the season, yet Thomas’ prior failures have continued to overshadow the work he’s put in during training camp so far.
Hopefully those efforts pan out for the better.