With the 3rd pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers bagged themselves an explosive pass rusher and ferocious run stuffer with Defensive Linemen Solomon Thomas. Read below to find out exactly who the 49ers got with the 3rd pick and how he will fit their scheme.
Early life and high school
Solomon Thomas was born December 20, 1995 in Chicago, Illinois. He was born 7 weeks prematurely and weighed just four pounds. However, by the time he was in fourth-grade Thomas weighed 195 pounds.
Thomas’ father, Chris, worked in the sales and marketing division for Proctor & Gamble’s and relocated the family to Australia where Solomon lived for five years. During his time down under he enjoyed fishing and played soccer (goalkeeper). But when the family returned, Solomon attended Coppell (Texas) high school and thrived in football. As a junior in high school he recorded 89 tackles with 8.5 sacks as a DE. In his senior year, he accumulated 78 tackles and 12.5 sacks.
He was ranked as a five-star recruit by Scout and a four-star by Rivals, ESPN and 247Sports. He was the 20th-best overall prospect in the national according to Scout, 25th by ESPN, 37th by Rivals and 41st according to 247Sports. Solomon received over 20 offers from premier programmes like Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M but narrowed his final three choices down to Stanford, Arkansas and UCLA. Thomas announced his decision to attend Stanford live on signing day.
College career at Stanford
Solomon Thomas redshirted his first year at Stanford in 2014. He then played in all 14 games in 2015, starting 6 and compiled 39 total tackles, 10.5 TFL and 3.5 sacks. In the 2015 Rose Bowl, Thomas recorded 3 solo tackles, 2 TFL and a sack against Iowa. In recognition of his success as a sophomore, Thomas was named as an honourable mention All-Pac 12.
In 2016, Thomas played and started all 13 games for Stanford. He accumulated 62 total tackles, 15.0 TFL and 8.0 sacks. He was named first team All-Pac 12 and won the Morris Trophy (best offensive and defensive linemen in Pac 12). While most tuned in to the 2016 Sun Bowl to watch Tar Heels QB, Mitchell Trubisky, it was Thomas who stole the show in front of the rest of America. Thomas registered a sack and two tackles for a loss alongside 5 solo tackles. Thomas was a constant pest and kept Trubisky off balance and uneasy in the pocket, he earned the game’s MVP for his disruptive performance. He majored in communication but declared early to enter the NFL Draft.
Solomon Thomas was a name that shot up draft boards from mid-season onwards. Thomas’ performance in the Sun Bowl solidified his name as a top prospect in this years draft. Prior to the 2016 college season the hype surrounding edge rushers and defensive linemen centred around Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, Tennessee’s Derek Barnett and Alabama’s Jonathan Allen. However, by the time the NFL and college season finished – Solomon Thomas started to become a consensus top-10/ top-5 pick.
Thomas impressed at the scouting combine in Indianapolis and displayed tremendous athleticism despite a compact frame. I have Thomas down as somewhat of a ‘tweener’, however, in today’s modern NFL that is not a knock against him. Thomas weighs 20lbs more than Oakland Raiders All-Pro DE Khalil Mack and is 12lbs lighter than LA Rams All-Pro DT Aaron Donald. However, when you look at the measurables and watch the tape he is a hybrid of the two. Thomas ran a 4.69 – 40, bench pressed 30 times and had a 35-inch vertical jump – displaying his lower body strength and explosiveness.
Most mock drafts had Thomas going 2nd overall to the San Francisco 49ers. He won’t need to move far from Stanford as Thomas was drafted 3rd overall by the 49ers, following a trade with the Chicago Bears.
Where does he fit for the 49ers?
Solomon Thomas is a great fit for San Francisco. The 49ers are implementing a new 4-3 Defense under Co-ordinator Robert Saleh. Thomas is a player who can get after the QB or set the edge as a base DE on first and second down, who can also kick inside and be extremely disruptive from the interior on 3rd down and in obvious passing situations. Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks has been utilised in this role and Thomas has the potential to be even better.
Thomas could be a perennial 10+ sack artist who has All-Pro traits for a Defensive Linemen. The 49ers now have 2016 1st round pick DE DeForest Buckner and 2015 1st round selection DE Arik Armstead alongside Thomas to play DE. But Buckner and Armstead are ideal 3-4 DEs which means one could kick inside and play the 3-technique at DT.
Thomas is a player who will greatly add to the 49ers pass rush and alongside Buckner, Armstead and newly signed Earl Mitchell could help the 49ers get home with just a 4-man pass rush. He is extremely strong at the point of attack and should greatly improve a porous 49ers run Defense. The addition of Thomas and Reuben Foster should greatly improve this 49ers front seven. Thomas is an ultra-talented defensive linemen who could be the proto-type for a new ‘tweener’ that NFL teams who now play predominantly in nickel and dime packages utilise on all 3 downs.