2014 marks the second consecutive year the San Francisco 49ers have put their faith in an injured player whose draft stock slipped as a result.
Last season, they went with Tank Carradine and Marcus Lattimore. This season, it is Clemson offensive guard Brandon Thomas.
He is recovering from an ACL injury, which thwarted his 2014 draft stock.
Prior to the injury, he looked like a top-50 candidate thanks to three quality years at Clemson, per Rob Rang of CBS Sports. After his draft stock had fallen, the 49ers were able to grab him with the final pick in Round 3 (No. 100 overall).
His ACL injury aside, Thomas is a talented guard who totaled 36 starts at Clemson, playing both tackle positions and left guard.
His versatility will eventually come to benefit the 49ers. San Francisco has shown willingness to add players who can fill multiple roles along the offensive line—Adam Snyder, Jonathan Martin and this year's draftee Marcus Martin.
With San Francisco's O-line getting older and more expensive, adding serviceable depth with the hopes of eventually taking over roles may be key.
Per his CBS profile, Thomas' attributes include good size and long arms. Combine that with good blocking technique and mobility, and his pre-injury traits do merit a high draft ranking.
The injury to his knee is an obvious setback to his maturation at the NFL level. But the 49ers are obviously comfortable with this, given their incumbent group of offensive linemen.
While Thomas does have versatility along the O-line, his 6'3" stature suggests that he would only be best served as a guard and not a tackle—thus negating some of the flexibility in plugging him in at any position along the line.
He also could use some work against speed-rushers, per his draft profile.
Like Carradine and Lattimore last season, Thomas will spend his first NFL season on injured reserve—the details of which are further described by Darin Gantt of NBC Sports. As we have seen, the 49ers are comfortable with this scenario and have no problems in him redshirting his rookie campaign.
When Thomas does recover, he could become the heir apparent to current guard Mike Iupati, who is set to become a free agent after the 2014 season. Eric Branch of SFGate.com points this out as being the 49ers' reason for drafting Thomas.
With any injured player, the book will remain out until he actually takes the field and makes an impact at the NFL level.
Until that point, the 49ers are satisfied with adding a player who could potentially carry over the next phase of O-line solidarity.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the San Francisco 49ers. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.
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