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How Experts Graded the 49ers First Round Draft Picks

Posted Apr 28, 2017

The San Francisco 49ers received rave reviews following a pair of first round selections in Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster.


The San Francisco 49ers received rave reviews on Thursday night after netting two standout defensive prospects in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft: Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas (No. 3 overall pick) and Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster (No. 31 overall pick).Take a look at how the national media graded John Lynch’s first night at the helm of the John McVay Draft Room at 49ers headquarters.

Mike Mayock, NFL Network (No Grade)

Analysis: (On Thomas) "One of the keys is (Thomas') versatility because the last two years the 49ers have taken Pac-12 interior defensive linemen. Now he's going to play a four-down front. So you'd anticipate on first down, he's a defensive end and on the money downs, he kicks inside."

(On Foster) “He reminds me of Luke Kuechly when I watch tape. He's an immediate impact player. Sideline to sideline, he will light you up."

Chad Reuter, NFL.com ('A' Overall)

Analysis: (On Thomas) "The 49ers got their guy at No. 3, and picked up two thirds (one future) and a fourth in the process. That's a big win. They picked the second-best player in the draft in Solomon Thomas."

(On Foster) “Then Reuben Foster was sitting there just waiting for someone to grab him, so they traded a fourth-round pick to Seattle to get him. If Foster's shoulder is OK, he'll be another Patrick Willis in the middle.”


Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN (Winner)

Analysis: (On Thomas) "The Niners are the early favorite to earn an "A" in my post-draft grades, making two trades and getting two prospects I ranked in my top eight. To move down one spot from No. 2 to No. 3 with the Bears, they also got picks Nos. 67 and 111 this year and a third-round pick in 2018. Then the Niners got their guy anyway, adding defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, a versatile pass-rusher who had a dominant 2016 season."

(On Foster) “San Francisco also used pick No. 34 at the top of the second round and the No. 111 pick it got from the Bears to move up to No. 31 and take Reuben Foster, the best inside linebacker in the draft. In the first draft of the John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan era, San Francisco got the best value of any team.”

Todd McShay, ESPN (Best Overall First Round)

Analysis: (On Thomas) "Thomas and Foster are two of the eight best players in this draft, so this is quite a haul for the 49ers. But what really stands out are the additional picks GM John Lynch was able to acquire as he moved up and down the draft board."

(On Foster) “The 49ers used some of their extra ammo to trade back into the first round with Foster still on the board. All in all, San Francisco netted out with two Day 1 difference-makers on defense and extra midround picks. Not bad for Lynch's first draft.”

Chris Burke, Sports Illustrated (A, A)

Analysis: (On Thomas) "With the 49ers expected to shift to a 4-3 scheme, Thomas best fits as a three-tech, but he can work inside or out. His presence alongside DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead will allow San Francisco to be very flexible up front.”

(On Foster) “Adding Foster to earlier pick Solomon Thomas has the makings of an all-time steal. He and NaVorro Bowman together… could bring back memories of the Bowman-Patrick Willis tandem.”


Steven Ruiz, USA Today (A-, A )

Analysis: (On Thomas) "John Lynch nailed his first pick. Thomas is a disruptive force who can play end on early downs and kick inside on passing downs. He’ll join a young, promising line in San Francisco.”

(On Foster) “Instincts, speed, intelligence, toughness. Foster has everything you want in a linebacker. The 49ers got themselves a steal. Like Jonathan Allen, there are concerns about Foster’s shoulder, but if it’s healthy, he’s going to be a stud for the next decade.”

Eric Edholm, Yahoo Sports (A, A-)

Analysis: (On Thomas) "General manager John Lynch is on the job, what, two months now? He nailed his first assignment. Thomas needs to find a true position, and many believe they’ll use him in the Michael Bennett role as the 49ers transition to a new Seahawks-style defensive scheme under Robert Saleh. Right now, Thomas is a great run defender and could be a great pass rusher one day. Nice, safe pick and a great trade."

(On Foster) "Then the 49ers dealt the 111th pick to move up three slots and took the free-falling Foster, who was a talented player that had issues — off-field concerns and health worries being the biggest ones. If he’s properly insulated and well managed there, the 49ers got one of the best players in the draft at the end of Round 1 for a cheap trade up. ... What a wild first day for John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan."

Pro Football Focus Draft Analysts (No Grade)

Analysis: (On Thomas) "The 49ers first-year GM John Lynch made a big splash with his first pick by trading down one spot and picking up additional draft picks both this year and a third round pick in 2018. Thomas finished 2016 with the No. 1 run-defense grade (92.0) and the No. 6 pass-rushing grade (86.9) among FBS interior defensive linemen. Thomas can also provide pass-rush both inside at DT in sub-packages and outside at DE in base defense; he racked up 10 sacks, 12 hits, and 22 hurries in 2016.”

(On Foster) "The wait is over for one of the draft’s most impressive players on the field. He is a physical and athletic presence capable of excelling in all three phases of defense. The 49ers are an intriguing fit, as we compared him to retired San Francisco great LB Patrick Willis in his scouting report. He led all FBS inside linebackers in run-stop percentage last season, and posted nine pass breakups while giving up no touchdowns in coverage the last two seasons for the Crimson Tide.”


Dieter Kurtenbach, Fox Sports (A, A )

Analysis: (On Thomas) "Thomas is going to play outside for the first two downs and then slide inside on third — he's a winning player who is going to give you three downs of production. It's an easy pick and the right one."

(On Foster) "The 49ers could have taken Foster No. 2 and it would have been justified — he's a missile. This is the kind of talent you build a defense around, and at No. 31, you're getting absurd value."

Will Brinson, CBS Sports (Winner)

Analysis: "What a freaking day. The 49ers got, in my opinion, the best player in the draft in Solomon Thomas. Add him to Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner on the defensive line and you're cooking with some gas when it comes to pressuring the passer.

"But they didn't just get Thomas; they also added three picks for moving down a single spot. Lynch then used one of those picks (the lower one this year) to move up three spots and back into the end of the first round to grab Reuben Foster, a guy they were thinking about drafting at No. 2 or No. 3. So, two top-10 talents, an extra top-75 pick and a third-round pick in 2018. It wasn't some Keyser Soze diabolical approach, it was just smart work on a draft board."

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports (A , A)

Analysis: (On Thomas) "John Lynch is off to a great start in his first draft. He got his guy (in Thomas). Love this move."

(on Foster) "He has a Ray Lewis-type of game. Love this pick. Top-10 talent.'


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