4 second-year 49ers poised for a breakout 2022 season

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: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

49ers breakout player No. 2: Cornerback Ambry Thomas

Early in 2021, it was looking as if San Francisco whiffed on its third-round pick, former Michigan cornerback Ambry Thomas, who struggled in training camp and then became a regular inactive for much of the first half of the season.

Yet it was important to recognize Thomas opted out of his final collegiate year, meaning his rookie season was the first time he had seen meaningful football in over a year.

Injuries at the position forced Thomas into the fray late in the year, and he initially struggled in his first start against the Cincinnati Bengals, regularly torched by rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. The following week against the Atlanta Falcons wasn’t particularly better, although Thomas wasn’t burned in coverage anywhere nearly as bad.

However, in weeks against the Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans and Los Angeles Rams to close out the regular season, Thomas looked like an effective starter.

Read More: Ambry Thomas’ maturation should make 49ers CB search easier

It’s important to acknowledge many a young defensive back can struggle transitioning from the college ranks to the pros, and Thomas could very well be on that trajectory. But the promising developments he showed late in the year help suggest he could be a quality option in 2022.

The 49ers should still explore any and all cornerback upgrades this offseason, yes.

But a breakout year from Thomas would alleviate those needs a lot.