Solomon Thomas Scouting Report By Charlie Campbell
Quick interior defensive lineman
Excellent hand usage
Closes on quarterbacks in a hurry
Repertoire of pass-rushing moves
Good get off
Ability to shed blocks
Can bull rush offensive linemen
Speed to close
Athletic for his size
Strong for his size
Has experience lining up at a variety of spots
Successful against good competition
Ready to contribute immediately
Good off the field
Looks like a safe pick to plug and contribute quickly
Doesn't get in trouble
Smart on and off the field
Tweener defensive end/tackle
Very undersized for an interior defensive lineman in the NFL
Not a natural fit in 3-4
Less than ideal length
Jack of all trades, master of none
Summary: Solomon Thomas was one of the breakout stars of the 2016 college football season. He didn't play as a freshman before totaling 39 tackles with 3.5 sacks as a sophomore. The juniot took his game to another level in 2016 with 62 tackles with 15 for a loss, eight sacks and one forced fumble. His bowl-game performance against North Carolina sent the hype machine into overdrive and vaulted him into being a projected top-five pick in the 2017 NFL Draft according to many draft-media pundits.
In the pass rush, Thomas is dangerous. He is a quick defender at the point of attack with the ability to fire his gap. He uses strength to shed blocks and can close in an instant on the quarterback. When lining up inside, Thomas has the burst to fire by guards into the backfield and the power to bull rush through some tackles when playing end. Thomas showed versatility in college to generate rush production from a variety of positions and techniques. He was dangerous as an end or tackle. Thomas was very consistent at putting heat on the quarterback during his final season at Stanford.
Thomas was a quality run defender in college. He filled his gap and was hard to move at the line of scrimmage. He ate up his block and prevented holes from opening up. Regularly, you would see Thomas shed his block to stuff a run near the line of scrimmage or fire into the backfield to disrupt a run off the snap. However, there are some scouts who have concerns about Thomas' run defense in the NFL. The reasons relate to size and length. If Thomas is lining up inside while weighing in the 270s or 280s, he will be very undersized to take on NFL guards and hold his ground. For end, he lacks some length, and some teams have concerns about him wearing down in the ground game.
Now let's get into the debate about Thomas. I have surveyed eight NFL teams; six of them have Thomas as a mid- to late first-round pick. Two teams had him as a top-10 talent. Here is what I wrote from their comments on Thomas in our combine blog.
A general manger of a NFC playoff team said Thomas should go in the top-24 picks, but they didn't have him as a high first-rounder. Another AFC playoff team graded him as a late first-round pick. The issue that is coming up the most with Thomas is that many teams feel has tweener size with listed numbers of 6-foot-3, 273 pounds. Some 3-4 teams feel that Thomas isn't a great fit in their defense and more of a 4-3 end. Sources from that AFC playoff team said that Thomas is more of a good left defensive end for a 4-3 team. They think Thomas has good technique, hand use, awareness, and feel while also being a great kid off the field. An NFC team picking in the top 20 said they thought Thomas would go in the No. 11-20 range.
There were a number of interesting comments about Thomas from league sources. One AFC director of college scouting picking in the top 20 had this to say about Thomas, "Late [round] 1 is right for him. Not worthy of a top-10. Nice player, but not special, undersized defensive end."
One general manager of a team picking in the top 10 said, "Thomas of Stanford does seem a bit rich to go in the top 10, but I think he would go around mid- to late first [round] .... he is a good football player, but may not be quite that "sexy" to go in the top 10 .... time will tell."
Another NFC national scout described Thomas like this, "Solomon is explosive, but at 276-280 pounds, he's got some tweener. He's not a true defensive end, but a hybrid, jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none type."
Sources from two other NFC teams said they thought Thomas would be a top-10 pick like the mock drafts project. They think that Thomas could add weight and be an undersized three-technique defensive tackle. Teams across the league say that Thomas is a great kid off the field. He doesn't get in trouble, is smart, and a team leader. They really love him off the field.
In the 2017 NFL Draft, Thomas should hear his name called in the top-25 picks, and it only takes one team to fall in love and pull the trigger on him in the top 10. To the media, Thomas is a lock as a top-10 pick. Speaking with teams suggests he's a wild card who could go anywhere in the first round, possbily high, in the middle, or late.
Player Comparison: Aaron Donald. At the combine, one NFC general manager picking outside of the top 10 said this of Thomas, "Thomas is going higher; many view him as a poor-man's Aaron Donald." Other teams also mentioned him as a poor-man's Aaron Donald. Thomas needs to gain weight in order to be similar size to Donald, and Donald is more explosive. However, Thomas' style of play at Stanford looked a lot like Donald.
NFL Matches: San Francisco, Chicago, Carolina, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Cleveland, Arizona, Indianapolis, Baltimore and Washington
In the top 20 of the 2017 NFL Draft, there are a lot of teams that could consider drafting Thomas. Many have been mocking Thomas to San Francisco with the second-overall pick. The 49ers have drafted defensive ends with their last two first-round picks, so finding a fit for Thomas with the organization isn't clear.
If the Bears want defensive line help, Thomas could be in play for them. With Eddie Goldman at nose tackle, Thomas could be maybe be a five-technique if he got heavier. That would give the Bears a talented front seven with Leonard Floyd, Willie Young and Danny Trevathan.
Carolina needs youth at defensive end behind Julius Peppers and Charles Johnson.
At the ninth pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, Cincinnati could consider Thomas. The Bengals need an improved pass-rushing end across from Carlos Dunlap as Michael Johnson is just a run defender. Thomas could move inside for passing situations next to Geno Atkins with Will Clarke coming in at end.
The Saints need to improve their pass defense. Even though they drafted an interior disruptor in Sheldon Rankins last year, Thomas could play end across from Cam Jordan and move inside during passing situations next to Rankins. That would allow New Orleans to bring in Hau'oli Kikaha for its four-man rush group.
The Browns could have two top-15 picks, and they could use more talent on their defensive line. They have some young edge rushers, but could use more talented youth on the inside and at three-technique defensive tackle. Thomas could be an option for Cleveland at No. 12.
Arizona lost Calais Campbell in free agency, and Thomas would be a tremendous addition for the Cardinals if he gets to their pick.
Indianapolis could draft Thomas to upgrade its pass rush and give the team an edge rusher to lead its defense. Baltimore cut Elvis Dumervil, and Thomas could be the long-term edge rusher to go with Kamalei Correa. The Redskins also could consider improving their front seven with an edge defender like Thomas.