Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

PFF calls Solomon Thomas the worst 49ers draft pick since 2006

Jul 2, 2021 at 8:54 AM--

There are a few candidates for the unfortunate distinction of being the biggest 49ers draft miss of the past 15 years, but none of them have been bigger than defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, according to Pro Football Focus.

The statistical analysis website posted its choices for the worst draft pick since 2006 for all 32 NFL teams on Friday morning, with Thomas being the selection for the 49ers. The feature's author, Michael Renner, says Thomas never looked like himself in San Francisco after the 49ers made him the third overall pick in the 2017 draft, due in part to him playing a different position than he was meant to play.

"Thomas was drafted as an edge rusher despite never having played there at Stanford," wrote Renner. "While he dominated against the run for the Cardinal, he did so while penetrating as mostly a 3-technique. He looked like a fish out of water off the edge for the 49ers and never earned a pass-rushing grade higher than 58.3."

Whether or not the 49ers were using Thomas in the best possible way was a subject of frequent discussion during his days with the team, but a torn ACL that ended his 2020 season in Week 2 didn't help his cause either. The 49ers said they were planning on using him inside as much as possible in 2020 before the injury struck.

"It's been our intent to try to keep him inside as much as possible, but he's such a talented football player that sometimes it's, 'Well, shoot, we've got to get him on the field,'" former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said about Thomas in August 2020. "...We're doing everything we can to make sure that Solly stays inside at all costs. When he is in there, if you look at his tape from a year ago, when he's inside and solely inside, he's a very, very effective football player. Made a lot of plays for us last year inside and so our intent is to try to keep him in there."

Thomas also had to fight through tragedy during his years with the 49ers, as his sister Ella took her own life in January of 2018. It understandably took him some time to cope with Ella's death, and eventually he sought out therapy.

"I knew I needed help but I kept brushing it off and emotions kept piling up and I kept pushing everything down and suppressing my emotions," Thomas said in April, per the Las Vegas Sun. "I started blowing up a little bit and getting into a dark place."

Thomas is now with the Raiders after signing with them on a one-year free agent deal in March. He told reporters in April that he has "fallen in love" with the game of football again and is ready to prove himself after months of rehab. It's quite possible a change of scenery will prove to be exactly what he needs to rejuvenate his career after a disappointing four years with the 49ers.

But as of now, Thomas' name will continue to pop up in lists like the one posted by Pro Football Focus. Thomas isn't the only first-round draft pick who didn't pan out for the 49ers since 2006 -- 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins (30th overall) comes to mind after lasting just one season with the team and catching only 17 total passes in his NFL career, as does linebacker Reuben Foster, who was also picked in Round 1 (31st overall) by the 49ers in 2017 but saw his time in the Bay Area come to an end in 2018 due to off-field concerns. But no. 3 overall picks are expected to bring a much bigger return than what the 49ers got from Thomas, which makes it easy to understand why PFF made him its choice.

Other notable names to make the list were former Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who was picked one spot ahead of Thomas in 2017, and former Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen, who was picked in Round 1 in 2018 but is now on the 49ers roster. Click here to take a look.

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