The San Francisco 49ers received many contributions from the team's 2014 draft class.
Another member of the 12-man haul who didn't see the field, guard Brandon Thomas, figures to be a must-watch prospect this offseason. Thomas, a third-round draft pick out of Clemson (100th overall selection), did not play this past season as a result of the torn right ACL he suffered in a pre-draft workout. The 6-foot-3, 317-pound lineman spent '14 on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list.
Thomas' second NFL season figures to be promising.
"Health-wise, I'm getting there," he recently told 49ers.com. "It's getting stronger. I feel like I'll be ready this offseason."
With Pro Bowl left guard Mike Iupati slated for free agency, Thomas is one of several young 49ers linemen in the mix to be a potential replacement for the team's next coaching staff.
"With that spot possibly being open, who knows what's going to happen," Thomas stopped himself before saying, "There's going to be some work this offseason."
Thomas has torn the ACLs on both of his knees. His first ACL injury to his left knee happened as a high school senior in '08.
Thomas rebounded from that setback to twice be selected as a first-team All-ACC performer at left tackle. He also made nine starts at left guard and 26 at left tackle in a productive college career that had Thomas poised to be a high draft pick.
Thomas's draft profile by NFL.com read as follows:
"Good size with very long arms and big hands. Quick out of his stance. Knee bender with good balance and body control. Solid base. Places his hands inside and can pop and recoil. Strong-handed puncher with good grip strength once he latches on. Athletic, efficient mover. Light on his feet to step to the second level or pull. Can maneuver and throw his hips in the hole. Climbs to the second level. Three-year starter who played tackle. Held his own against Jadeveon Clowney without help."
It was in an April workout for the New Orleans Saints that Thomas' draft stock was severely impacted. Nine months later, Thomas said he was relieved to not have to train for three-cone drills or 40-yard dash sprints like last offseason.
Despite the frustrating moment in New Orleans, Thomas remained positive about his football future. The promising lineman spent his rookie season learning from San Francisco's veterans instead of sulking.
"It was good having that camaraderie and getting to know the guys," said Thomas, who was able to travel with the 49ers throughout the season participate in walk-throughs for a three-week period in mid-November. "You get to learn a new (offensive) system, and you get to know the guys and how they work. It makes you want to jump in and work hard for them."
Thomas said he's comfortable playing guard or tackle if needed. But before he can focus on the position he'll make his NFL debut at, Thomas will spend his energy getting his knee ready for the 49ers offseason program.
"That's what it's all about," the 23-year-old said, "trying to get ready for next season. This offseason is pretty big for me."