• Akash Anavarathan

DE Solomon Thomas Makes Sense for the 49ers at No. 2 -- But, There's a Catch

With the 49ers set to select at No. 2 in the NFL Draft, the questions continue to swirl around who will be the player they choose.

This can arguably the best time of the year, every fan, scout and draft expert has a differing opinion on who a team should take.

In the past few days, 49ers Hub has taken a look at QB Mitchell Trubisky and S Malik Hooker, common names mocked to San Francisco.

Now let's take a look at another prospect that's been linked to the 49ers: Stanford DE Solomon Thomas.

You must be thinking that I'm crazy, another first-round defensive lineman? This would be the third year in a row, with DE DeForest Buckner and DE Arik Armstead being taken in the last two years.

The 49ers had a historically bad run defense this past season. They added DT Earl Mitchell, re-signed DT Chris Jones, but they could have a huge upgrade by drafting Solomon Thomas.

Breaking Down Thomas' Numbers

Thomas, a Junior Defensive End, has been climbing up the draft boards, now being a potential option at No. 2 overall for the 49ers. At 6-foot-3 and 273 pounds, Thomas doesn't have an ideal position and is commonly referred to as a "tweener." This past season with the Cardinals, Thomas racked up 61 tackles and 8.5 sacks.

Taken from Sports Reference, here's Thomas' full college statistics below:

The numbers may not blow you away, the 8.5 sacks this past season was ranked 47th in the FBS.

But he's an elite run defender as well, ranking sixth in the country among defensive tackles in run-stopping percentage, according to Pro Football Focus. His pass-rushing productivity isn't far behind, as it ranks 16th among defensive tackles in the draft.

His solid play earned him a No. 1 run defense grade among interior lineman in the FBS and a No. 6 pass-rushing grade.

In 394 pass-rushing snaps, Thomas generated 10 sacks, 12 hits and 22 hurries.

Breaking Down Thomas' Film

Here are some of the highlights from Thomas, taken from Draft Breakdown. Thomas is an elite run defender, as he can shed blockers and attack the gaps quickly.

He also has the ability to rush the passer from the inside, as in this clip he takes down UNC QB Mitch Trubisky with ease.

Breaking Down Scouting Reports on Thomas

According to Pro Football Focus, Thomas is an elite run defender that can shed blockers easily. Not only is he a solid run defender, the ex-Cardinal can also be a pass-rushing specialist off the edge or the inside.

Thomas is elite when it comes to attacking gaps with quickness and closing the hole. The knocks against him, will primarily have to do with his size. He's not an ideal NFL Defensive Tackle, at his size.

According to NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, Thomas has a muscle-car motor, quickness and strength that could lead him to a future All-Pro Selection. Zierlein adds that Thomas will need to add weight to his frame in order to be a successful defender in the NFL.

Both Pro-Comparisons from PFF and NFL.com will impress 49ers' fans. PFF compares Thomas to Seahawks' DE Michael Bennett, while NFL.com compares him to Justin Smith. Both players that the 49ers would gladly take to terrorize opposing offensive lines.

Bottom Line

The 49ers have drafted defensive lineman in the first round of the past two drafts, so can they afford to take another one this year? They surely can -- if the 49ers decide to part ways with Armstead.

The 2015 first round prospect wasn't on the field as much this past season, missing games due to a shoulder injury. He's another guy that hasn't been a great run defender, especially in comparison to DeForest Buckner.

It'll be tough to justify taking Thomas with Armstead on the roster, as it'll be tough to find the snaps to play all three of the players together.

Thomas can line up inside, if he adds weight, or on the edge in their base 4-3 defense, But that all hedges on the 49ers' trading Armstead. If they can't find a team to trade Armstead to, they'll likely have to pass on Thomas and draft another defensive player.

It'll be interesting to see what John Lynch decides, but Thomas to the 49ers only makes sense if it means Armstead won't be coming back in 2017.