Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports



For years, John Lynch witnessed first hand how Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammates Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, both in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, were able to disrupt opposing offenses. Now, as the San Francisco 49ers' general manager, Lynch hopes to recreate that same kind of disruption.

The first round of the 2017 NFL Draft had Lynch's stamp all over it. With the third overall pick, the 49ers selected defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, who coincidentally spent part of the offseason working out with Sapp. With the 31st overall pick, the 49ers selected linebacker Reuben Foster, who has the potential to be among the best at his position in the game.

Well-respected draft analyst Matt Miller of Bleacher Report recently joined KNBR to discuss Lynch's vision for the duo and share his thoughts on the 49ers' most recent rookie class.

Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster


Of the two, Miller believes that Thomas will have a bigger impact on the 2017 season simply because he is completely healthy. Foster is recovering from a surgery he underwent following the 2016 college football season to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

"I think that he can be a great linebacker right out of the gate," Miller said of Foster. "Coming out of Alabama, you know he's pro-ready. He understands all the concepts. He's definitely athletic enough. But Solomon Thomas is going to be available and sometimes that's the difference-maker."

RELATED McGinest: Reuben Foster is set to break out in 2017

Miller went on to explain that Thomas may not have been the sexiest pick, but he does everything well.

"The skies are the limit for him," Miller said. "And one thing that I remember after the draft, talking to people in San Francisco and they said, 'John Lynch sees these guys as his Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks.' He played on that Tampa defense with all that talent and he thinks that they can be that type of impact – not just on the field but in terms of culture. That got me really excited about those two rookies and just how [the 49ers] see them fitting in the defense."


C.J. Beathard


Miller was not too fond of quarterback C.J. Beathard during his time at Iowa mostly due to his accuracy issues. He understands that in 2016, Beathard was hurt and playing on a poor team. Miller was surprised at the selection of Beathard, especially in the third round, and sees the quarterback as a poor man's Kirk Cousins.

"Playing with that knee brace, I think it threw off some of his timing," Miller said of Beathard's accuracy issues.

Miller's biggest issue with Beathard is that he hesitates to get the football out of his hands. "In the NFL, you can't have that slow trigger," he said. "You just have to be faster. That is something that if you have a team around you that you don't trust, you'll see quarterbacks hesitate with the ball."

George Kittle


While Miller might have passed on Beathard, he can see his Iowa teammate doing a lot of damage as a rookie. Tight end George Kittle was a fifth-round pick and didn't have a plethora of stats coming out of college. A lot of that may have been due to the way he was used at Iowa. The rookie was catching everyone's attention during the 49ers' offseason program.

"I freaking loved this kid," Miller said. "Super athletic. He really wasn't really used at Iowa. That's a huge complaint of mine. In that offense, he was a blocker. The good thing is, he was the best blocking tight end in college last year and he's a great athlete. So, I think that he can be a Jordan Reed-type guy for Kyle Shanahan but he is a similar athlete. He fits in that mold. I could see him being – I know he was a fifth-round pick but I could see him being a big time player."

Trent Taylor


Trent Taylor out of Louisiana Tech was the only wide receiver selected in the draft by the 49ers and they didn't do it until the fifth round. However, he is another player who was impressive during the team's offseason program. At 5-foot-8 and 181 pounds, Taylor doesn't have great size and has a smaller catching radius than bigger NFL receivers, but he has been doing everything he needs to in order to prove that he can contribute to the 49ers.

While Taylor's size may have scared off some NFL teams, you cannot dismiss his production for the Bulldogs. He was one of college football's best receivers last year. As a senior, he had 136 catches for 1,803 yards and 12 touchdowns through 14 games for Louisiana Tech. His reception yards led the nation and his reception total ranked second to East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones' record-breaking 158 catches.

While the production was there in college, Miller is hesitant to predict a breakout season for Taylor and worries about his speed. The receiver ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.

"I don't think he's going to have that breakout Taylor Gabriel-type year under Kyle Shanahan," Miller said. "I think Marquise Goodwin is more your guy who's going to fill that role with Taylor being maybe the fifth receiver and probably getting some reps on punt returns."

Undrafted Rookies


Miller identified three undrafted free agents as players who might make an impact for the 49ers in 2017. His top choice was safety Lorenzo Jerome out of St. Francis University.

"He's played corner," Miller said of Jerome. "He can play safety. Ideal nickel player right there just because of the versatility so he would be my top pick as someone who could go from undrafted to making a contribution this year."

The other two players who Miller identified were wide receiver Victor Bolden out of Oregon State and tight end Cole Hikutini from Louisville.

All three of those players have joined us in recent months for interviews on our "No Huddle" podcast. You can play their interviews below. You can also listen to the entire interview with Matt Miller on KNBR.