We already know how much John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan value position versatility. That was proven when the San Francisco 49ers made Kyle Juszczyk a priority free-agent addition.
On Thursday, members of the 49ers coaching staff and front office – including Shanahan himself – got a firsthand look at two multitalented prospects right in their backyard. Running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas headlined Stanford University's Pro Day.
McCaffrey, son of former Denver Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, broke Barry Sanders NCAA record for all-purpose yards in a season in 2015. That's thanks to his ability as a runner, receiver and return man on special teams. Put simply, McCaffrey is electric with the ball in his hands, regardless of how it gets to him.
Thomas is an athletic pass-rusher who made a name for himself in the 2017 Sun Bowl against North Carolina and saw his stock increase further at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine.
Both players are projected to be first-round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft.
After working out with the running backs group at the Combine, Stanford's do-it-all playmaker used his Pro Day to showcase his versatility. McCaffrey returned punts and kicks and spent most of his offensive drills lined up at various receiver positions on both sides of the formation.
"I did all of my running back stuff at the Combine, and so today I really wanted to make sure that (teams) knew that I can run routes from the slot," McCaffrey explained. "I can run routes from outside. I can catch kicks and return punts."
Shanahan liked what he saw.
"That's what makes him valuable," Shanahan said. "He can do a little bit of everything, whether it's special teams and all the skill positions on offense. He's very versatile."
Thomas is currently a trendy pick to go as high as No. 2 to the 49ers when San Francisco goes on the clock on April 27. Despite the increased hype, the top prospect is doing his best to ignore the noise. But that doesn't mean he isn't confident in his ability.
The First-Team All PAC-12 defensive lineman posted 8.5 sacks in 2016.
"My mentality is to be the best, and I'm working towards being the best," Thomas said.
And much like his college teammate McCaffrey, Thomas is selling his position versatility to NFL teams.
"I can fit in any system," Thomas said. "I can play in a 3-4, and I can play in a 4-3. I can play from a three-tech to a nine-tech … Whatever a team's system is, I'm the guy for them. There's no better guy than me."
The 49ers have used their last two first-round picks on defensive linemen Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. Both were drafted as prototype three-tech defensive ends in a 3-4 system. Now that San Francisco has made the transition to a 4-3 scheme, there's a need for an edge rusher like Thomas.
That's part of the reason why numerous draft experts see him as a fit in San Francisco. But again, that noise means nothing to Thomas. Not yet, anyways.
"None of that matters until April 27," Thomas said. "When (I get drafted), I'll be happy for a day, and then I'll be right back to work."