The 49ers used their first compensatory pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to grab Michigan defensive back Ambry Thomas, the first defensive selection so far.
Thomas opted out of the 2020 season but has shown good coverage skills during his time at Michigan and one who will not need to step in immediately as a starter as they already have Jason Verrett, Emmanuel Moseley, and K’Waun Williams locked in at those positions, at least for this season.
The former Wolverine also has experience as a return man, something the Niners have lacked over the last several years in spite of trying several players like Richie James, Trent Taylor, and Dante Pettis as kick or punt returners. If he can’t carve out a starting role immediately on defense, he may prove himself to be useful on special teams.
Thomas isn’t afraid to get up and jam receivers at the line, although he may need to add to his 6-0, 182-pound frame in order to compete with some of the bigger receivers the NFC West boasts, such as Seattle’s DK Metcalf and Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins.
So this pick maybe one that looks into the future rather than a player who can immediately contribute on the defensive side of the ball. But he has shown a good nose for the ball, pulling down three interceptions in 12 games during his junior year in 2019.
He also had three passes defended that year.
He should have an opportunity to play on defense down the road and the Niners obviously like the tools he has, even if that means developing him as he contributes in other ways in 2021.