Scouting Stanford Defensive Lineman Solomon Thomas

Scouting Stanford Defensive Lineman Solomon Thomas

Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas has been one of the drafts fastest risers since the end of the college football season. A two-year starter, Thomas really blossomed into a defensive force in the Pac-12 this past season. He finished 2016 with a team leading 62 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, along with 8 sacks on his way to winning the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

In what turned out to be his final game for Stanford Thomas stood out versus North Carolina and highly touted quarterback prospect Mitchell Trubisky as the two met up in the Sun Bowl. Thomas ended the bowl game with seven tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack and was named the Sun Bowl MVP.

Only a red-shirt sophomore, Thomas will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and enter the 2017 NFL Draft.

Here is my scouting report on Stanford Defensive Lineman Solomon Thomas:

Measurements: 6’3” 273 lbs. Speed: 4.69 Arms: 33 Hands: 9 3/8 Vert: 35-inches 3-Cone: 6.95

Strengths:

Possesses solid height weight combo with average arm-length. Well-built with good muscularity and very good functional football-playing strength. Displays good athletic ability along with lateral quickness. Flexible athlete who can bend low in his stance, and fire out with good forward lean immediately engaging OL at the snap. Quick feet and good balance as he can step through or around bodies at the line of scrimmage to pursue down the line.

Very good snap anticipation; is almost always the first lineman off the line. Has very good instincts for the position able to quickly locate the ball and attack, making him a good run defender. Good at diagnosing and reading what the offense is doing, sniffing out screen plays, and delayed draws. Very good use of hands, possessing quick strong hands. Can bench a lineman, knock him back, then shed and flatten to make the tackle.

Strong pass rusher, more quick than fast, can cross the linemen’s face and combine multiple techniques like a swat, rip, and swim to disengage from blocker. Can convert speed to power, plays with good pad level to get underneath the blockers and leverage them back to the QB. Versatile defender who is just as disruptive kicking down to the inside mismatching guards with the burst to “get skinny” and pierce inside gaps. Physically and mentally tough, competes hard and makes plays in pursuit.

Weaknesses:

Not a twitched-up athlete lacks the elite first step off the edge. Does not display natural bend when running the arc on his outside rush. Struggles with change of direction in space. Can get engulfed by double-teams, struggles to maintain his ground at the POC. Runs himself into blocks by rushing laterally or attempting a spin move instead of attacking up field. Gets caught trying to anticipate the snap and drew a few off-sides penalties.

Realistic Expectations:

Overall, Thomas projects as a starting defensive end in the NFL probably more suited to play base end in a 40-front with the versatility to be kicked inside and rush as a three-technique. Thomas is a highly instinctive defender who plays with very good awareness and anticipation. He is a quicker than fast defensive end who utilizes his quickness to gain leverage on blockers to execute his assignments. He is equally effective stopping the run as he is rushing the passer making him a three-down player.

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Thomas up field presence was consistently felt by opposing QB’s all season, and he was far more dominant than the stat sheet shows. His versatility to play multiple positions along the defensive line and generate constant pressure as well as stuff the run draws comparisons to Seattle Seahawks two-time Pro Bowl DE Michael Bennett.
Lacking the elite burst and bend off the edge Thomas best position as a pro might eventually be inside at DT. He would need to add more weight to his frame, to help him hold his ground at the POC, but when you combine his athleticism and instincts, he has a chance to develop into a very disruptive 3-technique.

How Thomas Impacts the Bears:

For the Bears, Thomas projects as a hybrid DE/OLB who would supply the versatility to rush off the edge from either a two or three-point stance in either the base or nickel defense.

While there has been talk of Thomas being scheme versatile and able to play end in either a 4-3 or 3-4 front his inability to take on double-teams is concerning. Physically he lacks the bulk to hold up along the line in a 30-front on a full-time basis.

While not an ideal fit for the 3-4 defense, Thomas did look athletic enough to play in space during the linebacker drills at the combine. Displaying quick feet along with loose hips to open and drop, then quickly click and close in coverage.
Thomas, physically (height and weight) compares closely to current Bears OLB Pernell McPhee. While athletically Thomas appears to be a better athlete, producing much better test results during the combine drills than McPhee did back in 2011. So, if you’re looking for a blue print on how DC Vic Fangio would utilize Thomas, McPhee would be a good example.

Thomas was predominately a hand in the dirt defensive lineman at Stanford so standing him up and rushing off the edge as a linebacker would be an adjustment for him. However, with his instincts, and awareness coupled with an ability to get after the QB adding him to a front seven that would include a healthy McPhee, Leonard Floyd, Willie Young, Akiem Hicks, plus others would be fascinating to watch get after the QB.

Danny Shimon

Danny Shimon

NFL Draft Columnist for http://Todayspigskin.com NFL writer for National Football post and NFCNBarroom


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