Last week’s win over playoff-bound Jacksonville proved to the 49ers that they drafted well. Linebacker Rueben Foster (first round), wide receiver Trent Taylor (fifth round), tight end George Kittle (fifth round), cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (third round), safety Adrian Colbert (seventh round), running back Matt Breida (free agent) and wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (free agent) all contributed to the 49ers’ 44-33 upset win.
But what about the man at the top of the draft? Third overall pick Solomon Thomas probably didn’t have the rookie season he envisioned when his former class mate, general manager John Lynch, selected the defensive end from Stanford (Lynch and Thomas shared a Finance class together).
Nevertheless, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said that Thomas had his best game of the season against the Jags. But fans and the media would rather not be told that Thomas had a good game, rather it should be simply self evident.
Unfortunately, it’s been that kind of year for Thomas. He missed nearly all the off-season because Stanford wasn’t through school yet so he couldn’t participate. He also sustained a knee injury that cost him a few games and then played gimpy for a few more.
Also, the 49ers weren’t quite sure where Thomas fit along the defensive line. Instead of concentrating on one spot, Thomas played everywhere on the line.
Ever the optimist, Thomas believes this year will just set him for success in 2018. “It was hard to get in that (one) role,” Thomas said. “And to be all the different positions on the defensive line, but it’s also nice to be versatile.”
He took to defending run nearly right away, but Thomas has yet to establish himself as a pass-rush threat, something he dearly wants to rectify in the off-season.
“Work on your bend, violent hands, your get off – those are the things I’m going to focus on in the off season,” Thomas said. “Those are things I’m going to key in on the next few months.”
Thomas is likely to be a near daily presence at the 49ers’ facility as well.
“Probably a huge part of (getting better) will be gaining chemistry with the guys throughout the off-season, not worrying about the draft or the combine, or the 40,” Thomas said. “It will be nice to worry about just football.”
He hopes being single-minded about the game will be essential for him to blossom next year.