It turns out the 49ers didn’t have to go far to find their first-round draft pick. They selected the player many had earmarked for them, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, the second consecutive Cardinal player they have taken in the first round. Last year they chose guard Joshua Garnett with their second of two first-round picks.
Before selecting Thomas, the 49ers traded down one spot with the Chicago Bears, who took quarterback Mitch Trubisky with the No. 2 selection. The 49ers received a third-round pick (No. 67), a fourth-round pick (No. 111) and a third-round pick in 2018 as well as the No. 3 pick this year. That means new general manager likely took the player he would have selected at pick No. 2 and added three more picks in the process.
How he fits: All offseason, head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have talked about revamping the culture at 49ers headquarters. During free agency, they didn’t sign any superstars but rather a number of players whom coaches already knew were extremely hard workers. Thomas fits that description – a high character player whose motor never turns off and who was a team captain at Stanford. Thomas was the heart and soul of Stanford’s defense last season, finishing with a team-high 61 tackles and eight and half sacks. He may not be the elite pass rusher the 49ers really could use. But he’s a seen as a sturdy cornerstone for a rebuilding squad in search of leadership. He’s also excellent against the run, something the 49ers badly need after finishing with the worst run defense in their 71-year history last season.
How he’s a risk: The 49ers needed a sack master, someone they could plug in at the “Leo” position. Thomas isn’t that, despite putting up impressive numbers at the scouting combine. Instead, he was most destructive while lining up inside and taking advantage of guards and centers who aren’t good enough to play in the NFL.
Who should be nervous: Tank Carradine. The former second-round pick lined up at left defensive end – the so-called five technique – during the 49ers’ recent minicamp. That spot might be the best for Thomas, at least on base downs. Carradine could get moved into the competition at right defensive end, the so-called “Leo” spot.