SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected defensive linemen with their top picks in the final two drafts under general manager Trent Baalke.
The 49ers fired Baalke at the conclusion of the team’s 2-14 season, and new general manager John Lynch stepped into a tear-down project.
That complete rebuild began Thursday evening with Lynch’s selection of another defensive lineman. The 49ers traded back one spot and selected Solomon Thomas of Stanford with the No. 3 overall pick.
“We see a special football player, disruptive football player, who has tremendous versatility,” Lynch said. “I think he fits in with the current group that we have because he’s a little different than the guys we have. And when I think of Solomon, I think of speed and quickness and disruption.”
The 49ers expect to play more of an aggressive, attacking style of defense under first-year coordinator Robert Saleh. Perhaps, the team’s biggest need is at the “Leo” position, the weak side end that is considered more of a pass-rusher.
Thomas appears better-suited at the other end or at a defensive tackle position, but the 49ers are keeping an open mind about using him at nearly every spot along the defensive line in the team’s new 4-3 scheme.
“There are four defensive linemen and what’s intriguing about Solomon is he has the ability to play all four of them,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “That’s what makes him so unique. That’s why I think John says he’s a little bit different than some of the guys we have, because you can move him around. He has the quickness and speed to play on the outside. He has enough sides to play on the inside, so you don’t want to put him in one spot.
“We don’t think he has to be one specific role. Obviously, he is a defensive lineman, but there’s four spots he can play at and I think that’s going to depend on down and distance, whether we’re expecting run, whether we’re expecting pass and the type of personnel we’re going against.”