If you look at almost everybody’s 2017 Mock Draft it is common to see Stanford’s Solomon Thomas as the pick for the San Francisco 49ers. On the surface the pick makes sense. Thomas is one of the best players in this draft, he’s my 2nd rated player in this class (http://www.nfldraftgeek.com/2017-nfl-draft-prospect-rankings/), so the value is about right. Also the 49ers will be running a 4-3 Under Defense that needs a good penetrating 3 technique pass rusher for the defense to go.
The problem with Thomas to San Francisco is the 49ers are loaded with interior defensive lineman. Using their 2015 first round pick on Arik Armstead and then the 2016 pick on DeForrest Buckner along with Quinton Dial and Ronald Blair those four players will likely take up both the 3 technique and the 5 technique. Both positions that Solomon Thomas would play. While some NFL Draft analysts or draftniks believe that Thomas can play a weakside defensive end or pass rushing linebacker, that doesn’t fit his skill set.
While trading back is an option, they’ll need to have someone want to move up and for the price to be right. If the 49ers stay at 2, here are some players who not only fit their team better but also provide good value.
Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio State
A big part of the 4-3 Under is having the rangy centerfielder as their free safety. Earl Thomas in Seattle is the prototype while Tashaun Gipson has played well in that role in Jacksonville. Hooker has some flaws but thrives when asked to sit back in zone and react to the ball in the air. His range, instincts and ball skill set him apart and draw comparisons to future Hall of Fame candidate Ed Reed. Drafting Hooker would also allow the 49ers to keep Jimmie Ward at cornerback.
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Cornerback was a big need entering this offseason, but after the arrest and release of Tramaine Brock the need intensifies. Lattimore isn’t the big 6’3 cornerback like Seattle has with Richard Sherman but at 6’0 he isn’t small for a cornerback and has the elite athletic and speed traits that the top flight cornerbacks have. Lattimore’s elite speed and change of direction allow him to play in any scheme, let alone the press coverage that the 49ers will run. Drafting Lattimore would allow the Bears to either add depth to the position or even move Jimmie Ward to free safety where he may be better suited.
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
When healthy, Carlos Hyde has shown that he can be a top flight runner but injuries have been a big part of his career. According to Tony Pauline of the Draft Insider the 49ers new management is ready to give up on Hyde as they can’t trust him to stay healthy anymore. Kyle Shanahan’s offense is run heavy, so having a top flight running back could really benefit this team as they try to build. While Fournette is a big back he could thrive in a zone scheme that has him getting downfield right away and building momentum from his speed. Fournette can also be viewed as a safe pick also helps out.