A perfect fit for 49ers' roll-the-dice strategy, Brandon Thomas signs rookie pact

The Clemson Sports Blog

Football - Clemson offensive lineman Brandon Thomas tackles FSU's Lamarcus Joyner after his interception in the second quarter

Photo by Mark Crammer

Football - Clemson offensive lineman Brandon Thomas tackles FSU's Lamarcus Joyner after his interception in the second quarter

Eric Branch is a beat writer who knows his beat.

Way back in early April, a month before the NFL draft, Branch - who covers the 49ers for the San Francisco Chronicle - predicted that the team would make a move, perhaps an early move, for Clemson offensive lineman Brandon Thomas.

Earlier this month, the 49ers grabbed Thomas in the third round of the draft, and on Friday, Thomas signed a four-year, standard rookie contract with the team.

What made Thomas such a good fit for the 49ers?

He was injured. Almost certainly out for his rookie season.

Branch's prediction was based on the fact that the 49ers like what they've got, have few immediate pressing needs, and have a penchant for seeking long-term value when they draft young players.

When Thomas - after wowing scouts during the Senior Bowl, the NFL Scouting Combine, and Clemson's Pro Day - suffered a torn ACL during a private workout for the New Orleans Saints, the 49ers took notice.

In 2012, they grabbed Wake Forest offensive guard Joe Looney, who slipped from projected first or second-round status to the fourth round because of a foot injury. He didn't play a snap as a rookie, but is now considered a key backup on the 49ers' offensive front.

Last year, they took the concept a step further.

In the second round, they picked Florida State defensive end Cornellius 'Tank' Carradine, who was sidelined by a knee injury. With their fourth-round pick, they rolled the dice on South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, whose knee injury what he suffered late in the 2012 season was considered even more serious than Carridine's. With their fifth-round selection, they drafted Alabama defensive lineman Quinton Dial, whose toe injury would require significant rehab.

Of the three, only Dial played a snap (19 total) last season.

While other teams watched Thomas plummet on their draft boards, for the 49ers, he made perfect made sense.

San Francisco, Branch explains, needs young offensive linemen for down the road,

The 49ers' general manager, Trent Baalke, attended Clemson's Pro Day, and watched Thomas turn in the latest in a series of impressive performances.

Giving credit where it's due, Jadeveon Clowney didn't hurt Thomas' status a bit. As one NFL scout noted, in the teams' November meeting, the Tigers' tackle effectively handled the draft's No. 1 overall pick "without help."

Thomas is now all set to go with the 49ers, ready to rehab through what amounts to a redshirt season.

For a player who tried Dabo Swinney's patience for his first two years on campus and then emerged into a two-time All-ACC performer, Thomas has worked and played himself into a pretty good position at the game's highest level.

Follow Kerry Capps on Twitter @oandwkc

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