The 49ers entered the 2021 NFL Draft with an obvious need at cornerback.
They waited until the end of the third round to select Ambry Thomas of Michigan, the 15th corner selected.
General manager John Lynch told NBC Sports Bay Area he knew Thomas would require some time and development to get to a spot where he could help the team. After all, Thomas did not play during the 2020 season after opting out due to COVID-19.
After a difficult training camp in which Thomas was often caught holding or interfering with wide receivers he was assigned to cover, he has been inactive for three of the 49ers’ first five games.
“We still believe Ambry is going to be a really good football player for us,” Lynch said. “We drafted him because we believe he has starting traits in our league.
“He’d been away from football for a year. There’s some strength development that we knew had to take place. That’s happening. He’s working incredibly hard. We have a good plan for him.”
Thomas, listed at 6-foot, 190 pounds, is currently at the bottom of the 49ers’ depth chart at cornerback. Fellow rookie Deommodore Lenoir, a sixth-round pick from Oregon, started the first two games and has been active for every game over Thomas.
Veterans Emmanuel Moseley, Josh Norman, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dontae Johnson also stack up ahead of Thomas.
Lynch said he believes Thomas could work his way into a spot as early as this season where he can make an impact with the club.
“I’m sure it’s hard for people to see, but we’re very encouraged with what we’re seeing out of Ambry,” Lynch said. “He wasn’t quite ready at the start of the year. We’re hopeful that at some point this year, he’s going to come and really help us, and we really are believers that in the future he’ll be an important piece of what we’re doing.”