Each week, theScore will go division by division, highlighting which three players’ performances will most impact their team’s season in 2017.

Solomon Thomas

The 49ers eschewed using their top-three draft pick on a quarterback and opted instead for the NFL-ready defensive end. They better hope they made the right call.

It’s a rare occurrence for a QB-needy, two-win team to bypass the opportunity to add a franchise-altering quarterback, but the Niners recognized they have multiple holes on their roster. The chance to add an immediate difference-maker couldn’t be passed up.

It’s the second consecutive season in which San Fran has used a top-10 pick on a defensive lineman, as the organization tries to rebuild its once envied defense from front to back.

DeForest Buckner


Buckner, the No. 7 pick of a year ago, showed flashes of brilliance in his introductory season, finishing fourth among rookies in sacks with six on the year. He’ll face another challenge in Year 2, though. In addition to competing against opposing linemen, he’ll have to adjust to a new system under a new coaching staff.

He has the blessing of one of the league’s best, as Michael Bennett of the rival Seahawks has declared Buckner a future Defensive Player of the Year. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan inherited the talent, and are hoping it amounts to found money.

Pierre Garcon


He may be 30 years old, but Pierre Garcon will play a large role in the 49ers’ offense. The team lavished him with a five-year, $47.5-million contract in hopes he can boost the talent on that side of the ball. He’s one of the Niners’ few established weapons.

However, he’s coming off just his second 1,000-yard campaign in a nine-year career. To rest the aerial attack on Garcon’s shoulders may be a little much to ask, but with unproven players surrounding him, San Francisco has no choice.

He’ll likely have to endure plenty of losses while contending with top corners. The present may not be pretty, but Garcon will need to be the bridge to a brighter future.

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)

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