49ers roster: 5 players who must make massive leap in 2022

Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Ambry Thomas, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ambry Thomas (20) Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

49ers roster player No. 3: Cornerback Ambry Thomas

It shouldn’t be too surprising to see 2021 rookies populating this list so far, and the fact there are three of them up to this point highlights the Niners’ need to ensure at least a few of them pan out to the desired effect.

Cornerback Ambry Thomas was actually one of the more notable San Francisco storylines from the latter half of last season, going from a raw third-round draft prospect who opted out of his 2020 collegiate campaign all the way to starting two of the three playoff games the 49ers appeared in last season.

His maturation and improvement over the course of his deployment were clearly visible, too. His first week as a starter, Week 14 against the Cincinnati Bengals, did not go well. The following week, however, Thomas stuck with his receiving targets but failed to challenge at the catch point. A week after that, the Tennessee Titans started targeting other defensive backs instead of Thomas, suggesting he turned a major page.

There are still more pages to turn, though.

Perhaps the Niners’ biggest defensive weakness entering 2022 is at cornerback, and there are only so many offseason means to reinforce this group, putting even more pressure on Thomas to emerge as a starting-caliber option next season.

If he can accomplish this, San Francisco’s defense will be in vastly better shape.