Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

5 things to know about new 49ers CB Ambry Thomas

May 1, 2021 at 9:13 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers added an intriguing cornerback prospect to their roster in Round 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft with the selection of Ambry Thomas of the University of Michigan at pick 102 overall.

Thomas (6-0, 182) was a top 100 recruit in high school at Detroit Martin Luther King and has the potential to be a steal for the 49ers as a Round 3 pick. He has the talent to see early playing time for the 49ers, and as demonstrated below, he certainly brings the level of confidence one likes to see in an NFL cornerback.

Here are five things for fans to know about Ambry Thomas as he begins his career with the 49ers.

* He's coming off an opt-out year: After playing three seasons for the Wolverines from 2017 to 2019 (39 games, 13 starts), Thomas decided to sit out the 2020 season once things became uncertain across Big Ten football due to COVID-19. The decision was a difficult one for Thomas, but he was also coming off a thumb injury and wouldn't have been ready to play right away in 2020 anyway.

"It was very tough," Thomas told The Michigan Insider in January. "I had surgery on my thumb too, so offseason training, I didn't get (any). Come spring, I shut down. And it's just like, what's about to go on now? You get back to training, the first couple weeks hold a bunch of uncertainty, I'm still not all the way healthy, and I knew my body wasn't ready to play the season, honestly. But it killed me not being on the field. It killed me."

Michigan struggled across the board in 2020, with its defensive backs being no exception. Thomas has said he doesn't regret his decision to opt out, but he also felt bad that he wasn't able to help his teammates during the season.

"I feel like the talent is there, but if you want to put the blame on somebody, you can put it on me," Thomas said. "I look at all those people in the DB room when I was there as like my younger brother me. The stuff I got given to me (I can) give to them and they can take it in and pass it on. I just feel I did them wrong by not guiding them and leading them out there."

The 49ers had no problem whatsoever with Thomas' decision.

"I'm a father of a kid who played on a college football team this year," 49ers head coach John Lynch said Friday. "The plans were so far up in the air. I don't blame any of these kids for having opted out for going through what we did."

* He has a chip on his shoulder: Thomas wasn't projected as a first- or second-round pick, but he feels like maybe he should have been. He felt like he was the best cornerback in the Big Ten and a top-five cornerback in the draft, and he wasn't happy that scouts didn't feel the same way.

"I'm ready to show everybody what I can do," Thomas said in March, per the Detroit Free Press. "I feel like I've got a chip on my shoulder. Because I feel disrespected through this whole process. I know what I bring to the table. I missed a whole offseason at Michigan and I still played how I played last year. I was on one week of practice when I got back. I know what I can do — I'll put it like that."

* He's fast, and very confident about it: Thomas has been clocked in the 4.3s in the 40-yard dash, which is certainly something the 49ers liked. He's been making his feelings clear about his speed for years.

"I'm the fastest guy (on the team)," Thomas said in 2019. "Ain't that many guys faster than me in the NCAA. Just keeping it real."

It isn't just 40 times that impress Thomas, however.

"People can run fast, but can you play fast? I play fast," Thomas said.

* He played in all three phases of the game in college: In addition to his talent as a cornerback, Thomas gives the 49ers an experienced kick returner. Thomas returned 39 kicks for 808 yards (20.7 average) and one touchdown over his freshman and sophomore seasons at Michigan. Thomas also got a brief taste of life on offense as a sophomore in 2018, catching two passes for five yards and carrying the ball once for 11 yards. It's not surprising the Wolverines gave Thomas a shot on offense; he was very good at it in high school (34 catches, 903 yards, 14 touchdowns as a receiver for Detroit Martin Luther King in 2016) and lobbied for his chance early in his college career.

Chances are Thomas will not see time on offense in the NFL, but it would come as no surprise to see the 49ers give him a shot in the return game.

"I believe I can return punts also, but in college I never did it because we had a starting punt returner," Thomas told 49ers reporters Friday night. "He was the punt returner and I was the kick returner. That's how it kind of went. But, I believe I can do that also."

* He has no love for his rival: Thomas was selected not long after the 49ers made Ohio State running back Trey Sermon their choice earlier in the third round. Thomas and Sermon did not play against each other in college due to Sermon only being at Ohio State for the 2020 season, but there's little doubt the two of them might do a little trash-talking when arch-rivals Ohio State and Michigan play in 2021.

Thomas told TheSpun.com that he would have rather blown out Ohio State in college than win a national championship.

"That's a hard question," Thomas said. "I would rather blow out Ohio State because those guys think they're good – and honestly I don't think they're that good."

Ohio State has been dominant against Michigan in recent years, but Thomas and others had the chance to see the Buckeyes on the other end of that when they were blown out by Alabama 52-24 in the 2020 National Championship game. Thomas wasn't shedding any tears when that happened.

"I'm not going to say it felt good because it didn't," Thomas told The Spun. "I don't like watching football, I'd rather be playing. We played against Alabama last year during a bowl game, and their receiving corps was way better last year – this year they just had DeVonta Smith. Up until the third quarter, it was a good game. If we had more offense, we would've been fine. Kudos to those guys for getting to the national championship, but I'm happy Alabama won. Put it like that."

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