There is no doubt in my mind that the San Francisco 49ers suffered a huge blow when G Mike Iupati bolted for the Arizona Cardinals. A true mauler in the run game, Iupati was easily the team’s best road grader down in the trenches. However, he is no longer on the team and many Forever Faithful are now in favor of the team taking a guard with their first-round pick (No. 15). Not so fast my friend.
The team already accounted for this loss as the team drafted G Brandon Thomas in the third-round (No. 100) last season. In actuality GM Trent Baalke stayed one step ahead of the game as Thomas will now be looking to relish the starting role.
At 6-3, 317 pounds, Thomas is a man among boys. His long wingspan which measures at 34 3/4 inches is enough to keep pass-rushers at bay while being strong enough to re-direct defensive lineman at the point of attack (He had 35 reps on bench press). Not to mention, Thomas would instantly become a better pass-blocker than Iupati as he was a two-time first-team All-ACC selection at left tackle, you can see where Thomas’ value lies.
Aside from Thomas’ freakish size it’s his athleticism that should have Forever Faithful excited. Thomas’ skill-set is tailored more toward stretch plays as he has the quick feet to hit the second-level with ease– something the team will likely do as they added Chris Foerster to the team’s coaching staff, Thomas should benefit as he will likely be used on pulls and traps.
But if Thomas is so good why did he fall to the third-round? It was due to tearing his ACL in a private workout with the New Orleans Saints just weeks before the draft.
Thomas may not have experience on his side but that’s not to say he won’t be a good guard at the NFL level. He is far better than any offensive lineman in this year’s draft including G Brandon Scherff, so expect Thomas to impose his will as he gets acclimated to the NFL game this preseason.
I spoke with Thomas regularly to gauge his progress as he recovers from his ACL injury, “I’m feeling really good. No setbacks or anything like that,” Thomas said. I then asked if he would be ready to start the 2015 season, “I’ll be ready.”
In what basically was a redshirt year for the Clemson product, don’t be surprised if Thomas wins the starting job as he has the rare size, strength, and athleticism that every NFL general manager covets. And with Thomas having a full year under his belt as he took mental reps in the film room, there is no question he won’t be ready in 2015 both mentally and physically.