From the very beginning, Solomon Thomas was the man the 49ers targeted. After the #1 overall pick Myles Garrett, he was probably the most talented player in this draft. The 49ers were either going to select Thomas with the #2 pick, or trade back and take him with the pick they gained.
But I don’t think even the most optimistic of San Francisco fans could have predicted what they got.
The Chicago Bears, who occupied the pick directly after the 49ers, traded up one spot. San Francisco and Chicago swapped picks, but the 49ers also netted Chicago’s 2017 third and fourth round picks, as well as their 2018 third rounder. First year GM John Lynch re-flipped both of those picks, ending up with Reuben Foster and a 2018 second rounder.
As for the pick they still had at the top of the draft, John Lynch got his man all along. The Bears took quarterback Mitch Trubisky, leaving Solomon Thomas to fall right into his lap. He’s a local kid out of Stanford, and will fit perfectly into their system.
His tape shows how ferocious he is at the line of scrimmage. He gets his motor running as soon as the play starts, and it doesn’t stop until after the play. He violently throws offensive lineman off balanced and away from good positioning.
The most crucial part of his game to me is how he is always moving forward. His arm strength combined with the fact that he always keeps his feet moving makes it look almost effortless the way he pushes linemen back. And when he gets to the quarterback, he uses his 4.69 40-yard dash speed to turn the lights out on the QB.
To me, the best piece of what the 49ers did here was playing the long game. Realistically, this team is at least two or three years from playoff contention. There is a lot of time to build the depth of this team. Right now, San Francisco just needs to build a foundation and start taking some steps in the right direction.
In the last three drafts, the 49ers have used their first round picks on Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Solomon Thomas. They are starting this rebuild with the front seven as the focal point, and that’s never a bad strategy.
It would have been very easy for them to snatch at a quarterback the way Chicago and Kansas City did. The 49ers are still in desperate need of a quarterback, but a rich crop of talent at the position coming into the 2018 draft means John Lynch didn’t have to panic. San Francisco will probably have another top five draft pick next year, and they can use that one to get their franchise quarterback.
John Lynch’s first draft in control of the 49ers could not have gone any better. Top to bottom they improved their team, and also set themselves up well by grabbing two extra picks in the 2018 draft. This is going to be a long rebuild in Santa Clara, but I think they made a very sizeable step with this selection.