With the NFL Draft 22 days away, it appears that experts are finally reaching a consensus when it comes to projecting what exactly the 49ers are going to do with their top two picks.
Two weeks ago, Todd McShay had the 49ers taking Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas with the second overall pick, despite the fact that they’ve taken similar players (DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead) in the first round of the previous two drafts. McShay again has San Francisco taking Thomas in the fourth installment of his mock draft that dropped Wednesday morning, as does fellow expert Mel Kiper. Both argue that Thomas has to potential to be an elite pass rusher, something the 49ers are lacking, and something neither Armstead nor Buckner have shown flashes of.
Thomas excelled with the Cardinal last season, winning the Morris Trophy (awarded to the best defensive lineman in the Pac-12) and was named Pac-12 defensive player of the year. Thomas recorded eight sacks and 15 tackles for loss in 13 games. NFL.com compares Thomas’ skill-set to that of Justin Smith.
Kiper: I think San Francisco will wait on a quarterback (maybe Kirk Cousins in 2018?). Outside of the Browns, the 49ers have the worst talent on their roster from top to bottom, and picking Thomas would beef up their defense. He’s a different player than the D-linemen the 49ers have taken in the first round the past two years (DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead) and has double-digit sack potential.
McShay: The 49ers don’t necessarily need to force it and spend the No. 2 pick on a QB after picking up Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley in free agency. What they need is more impact players, and Thomas is the total package off the edge, with size, quickness and power.
McShay and Kiper are also in agreement that the 49ers will select Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu with the 34th overall pick in the second round. Despite the fact that San Francisco has two young safeties already on it’s roster in Jaquiski Tartt (2015 second-round pick) and Jimmy Ward (2014 first-round pick), not to mention Eric Reid who is still only 25, McShay and Kiper believe Melifonwu’s athleticism is too impressive to pass up.
As a senior in 2016, he started all 13 games and recorded 118 tackles and four interceptions
Via ESPN Insider:
Kiper: Melifonwu might have been the biggest athletic freak at the combine, running a 4.40 40 and posting a ridiculous 44-inch vertical and 11-foot-9 broad jump. Both leaps ranked as the best of any prospect at the combine. Melifonwu has moved all the way up from the fourth-round grade I gave him during the season. He’s a potential Day 1 pick now.
McShay: You took the words (and the pick) right out of my mouth, Kiper. I have Melifonwu as my No. 33 overall player, but he could go higher if a team falls in love with his athleticism.