Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports



With the third overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers have selected Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas. In a trade with the Chicago Bears, the 49ers moved down one spot from two and gained three extra picks in the process.

The 49ers were on hand for Stanford's pro day last month. The contingent included head coach Kyle Shanahan and defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina, who closely observed Thomas' workout. Thomas is the third defensive lineman who the team has selected with its top pick in the past three years. In 2016, the 49ers selected DeForest Buckner out of Oregon with the seventh overall selection. The year before, they selected Arik Armstead – also out of Oregon – with the 17th overall selection.

Thomas saw his stock rise in 2016 when he had 61 tackles, 8.5 sacks, and was First-Team All PAC-12. That stock rose further following the Sun Bowl against North Carolina and his showing at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he ran a 4.69-second 40-yard dash. While the bulk of his playing time at Stanford was in the interior, his ability to play on the edge, where he would be most valuable to the 49ers, is unknown.

Following Stanford's pro day, Shanahan was asked whether or not Thomas could play at the Leo position on the 49ers' defense. "I believe so," he answered. "I believe he can line up probably anywhere inside that he wants." However, Shanahan admitted that he still needed to do more research on Thomas.

Pro Football Focus rated Thomas as the nation's best defender against the run in 2016. The 49ers defense ranked last in the NFL against the run last season – along with a number of other categories. The unit allowed a league-high 165.9 rushing yards per game to opposing offenses.

"Moving forward, stopping the run is our number one priority," 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said earlier this month. "The way we align, our demeanor, the responsibility of the defensive players, we will stop the run on this defense."

Thomas ranked as the fourth-best player available in ESPN analyst Mel Kiper's big board. "Thomas plays like a veteran, causing disruptions in both the running and passing games," wrote Kiper.

NFL.com projected that Thomas would be a top-10 pick of the NFL Draft.

Pro Football Focus stats to know: Thomas is one of the elite run defenders in the nation and his 12.0 run-stop percentage ranks No. 6 among Power-5 defensive tackles.



Lance Zierlein of NFL Media, who compares Thomas to Justin Smith, had the following to say in his scouting report:

"Explosive defender who combines strength, quickness, and a muscle-car motor to drive him around the field making play after play. Has the hands and feet to be a quick-win specialist and the size to fit as a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive end who can reduce inside for pass-rush downs. He has all the athletic traits to become a high-impact player and possesses more than enough skill and talent to believe he will continue to elevate his game as a pro. Thomas has the potential to become the best defender from this draft class and a future all-pro."

Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst had the following to say in his scouting report:

"Thomas comes off a sensational season and justifiably moves towards the draft as one of the highest-rated defensive lineman. He offers immediate starting potential at defensive end in a four-man line and will only improve in time as he learns NFL techniques."

Pro Football Focus had the following to say in their draft analysis:

"Thomas was dominant this season as shown by his No. 1 run-defense grade (92.0) and No. 6 pass-rushing grade (86.9) among FBS interior defensive linemen. Thomas has been highly productive the last two seasons but has followed a natural skill development progression as he was first a solid run defender and then made an ever-increasing contribution as a pass-rusher. Thomas's pass-rushing productivity rating of 8.7 ranked No. 5 among Power-5 defensive tackles. Thomas has experience playing in the interior of the defensive line but only weighs 270 pounds so he isn't exactly the ideal size to play inside in the NFL but his experience inside and his proven ability to hold up makes him an ideal candidate to play base defensive end and then a player who can shift inside to defensive tackle in sub-package situations. If nickel is the new base, then Thomas' ability to stop the run plus rush the passer from inside or outside will make him a highly coveted player in the draft."

Measurables


Height: 6-3
Weight: 273 lbs.
Arm length: 33 inches
Hand length: 9 3/8 inches

NFL Scouting Combine


40-time: 4.69 seconds
Vertical: 35 inches
Broad jump: 126 inches
3-cone drill: 6.95 seconds
Bench press: 30 reps
20-yard shuttle: 4.28 seconds

College Statistics


Year G Tkl Loss Sk
2015 14 39 10.5 3.5
2016 13 62 15.0 8.0
Totals 27 101 25.5 11.5


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