Summary: Every year, there are some prospects who tantalize NFL scouts with a great skill set and tons of upside, but who are also very inconsistent and have never produced up to their skill sets. They are difficult evaluations and can be love/hate prospects. Some team sources think they can get the most out of them with good pro coaching, while others think those players will never play up to their skill sets. In the 2018 NFL Draft, no player may epitomize this more than Thomas.
At Miami, Thomas would flash talent, but he never produced up to his athletic ability. Thomas had 18 tackles with a sack, four passes batted and one forced fumble in 2015. As a junior, he collected 37 tackles with 11 for a loss, four sacks and three passes broken up. In his senior year, Thomas was a leader on a Miami defense that helped the resurgent Hurricanes reach the ACC Championship, yet he still did not produce a big stat line. Thomas totaled 30 tackles with 8.5 for a loss and 3.5 sacks in 2017.
Thomas is very talented. He is fast at the point of attack, long, and twitchy, plus has natural strength with a good build. He Thomas looks like he should have dominated in college, but he never produced up to the expectations. Thomas seems to lack instincts and consistency. There were stretches when he did nothing and looked clueless. Then, there were times when he looked like a potential first-round pick and a future impact-making starter in the NFL.
Thomas has the ability to be an game-changing pass-rusher. There are times when he shows off his excellent skill set and looks like a starting defensive end with early-round potential. Thomas is fast at the point of attack. He can fly by offensive tackles and run the arc around the corner. There were times when he flat out burned tackles with speed. Along with firing around the corner, Thomas has a burst to close in an instant. He possesses very good closing speed. Thomas also has enough weight, strength and length to rush from the inside in the sub package. He has active hands and shows some variety in pass-rushing moves.
In the ground game, Thomas has the size and strength to hold his ground of the point of attack. However, he doesn't look as motivated to defend the run as he is to hunt the quarterback.
For the NFL, Thomas could be a starting base end in a 4-3 defense or a standup outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Aside from his inconsistent and underachieving production, teams also wonder how long Thomas will want to play in the NFL as he is known as a star DJ in the Miami area with a future as a music producer. Multiple team sources say they think Thomas could be a third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Kareem Martin. Martin and Thomas are very similar. Coming out of North Carolina, Martin had an excellent skill set with size, speed and athleticism, but he never produced up to it in college and hasn't in the NFL either. Martin was a third-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, and Thomas could go in the same range. Martin has been a disappointing pick for Arizona.
NFL Matches: Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Oakland, Miami, Green Bay, Seattle, Detroit, Los Angeles Rams, Carolina, Tennessee, New Orleans and New England
There are a lot of teams that could target Thomas in the 2018 NFL Draft. This is a weak edge-rushing class, and that is a premium position in the NFL, so Thomas could have plenty of teams hoping to land him. With his ability to fit any scheme and be an edge rusher, Thomas will be in demand.
Tampa Bay needs to improve its edge rush. Thomas could form a tandem across from Noah Spence.
San Francisco general manager John Lynch has stated the team needs more edge-rushing talent. Thomas could finish off the 49ers' young defensive line as a second-day pick.
Staying in the Bay area, the Raiders badly need more front-seven talent. Thomas could be an option for Oakland as an edge rusher across from Khalil Mack.
The Dolphins could consider Thomas in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, because they could use an end to go across from Charles Harris. Green Bay also could use more edge talent, and Thomas could give the Packers some size and length at outside linebacker.
Seattle could be a possibility for Thomas if the organization is able to get a second-day pick. Michael Bennett and/or Cliff Avril could be nearing the end of their time with the Seahawks. Thomas could make sense for Seattle as a long-term replacement.
The Lions need an edge pass-rusher to go across from Ziggy Ansah. Thomas would be a nice fit. Likewise the Rams could use an end across from Robert Quinn.
Carolina can't count on Julius Peppers playing much longer, and Thomas would make sense as his understudy. The Titans also could use a young edge rusher. Their pass rush needs to be improved, and Thomas could fit as a long outside linebacker for Mike Vrabel. The Saints could use an end upgrade across from Cam Jordan. New England also needs more young talent at defensive end.