With the third overall pick of the 2017 draft, the 49ers selected Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.
But through his first two years in the NFL, Thomas hasn’t played like a No. 3 pick. He’s at times been good, and at other times been invisible.
Over two seasons he has just four sacks – with only one coming in 2018 – and had only six quarterback hits and three tackles for loss last season. Those are hardly high-imapct numbers.
So, as the 49ers start working toward 2019, they’d like to do a little self-evaluation. Are they using Thomas in the right way to get the most out of his talents?
Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh recently told reporters that one of new defensive line coach Kris Kocurek’s most important tasks will be to use Thomas to maximize his production.
Over his first two seasons, Thomas has been moved all across the line, playing inside and outside.
“Kris is going to study him, and we’re going to sit down,” said Saleh. “I want his thoughts, unbiased, so I’m not going to put anything out there right now.”
Saleh added that he and Kocurek will “do what’s best for the organization and put Solly in the best place to be successful.”
As Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com wrote this week, Thomas seemed to play better and make more of an impact later this past season when he more consistently played inside. But, getting him more consistent snaps inside could take away opportunities at tackle from either DeForest Buckner (who was excellent in 2018) or Arik Armstead.
General manager John Lynch says once the coaching staff figures out where it’s best to position Thomas, that will help the team’s pursuit of veteran free agents and how it drafts.
Thomas says he knows he’ll improve if he just gets consistent playing time.
“I’m a guy who likes to have reps to get better,” he said late in the season. “Have reps to learn and learn from.”