On Feb. 23, I had you guys vote between Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas and Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore. At one point the vote was tied 50-50, but Thomas ended up winning, getting 53 percent of the 99 votes.
— Da Bears Brothers (@DaBearsBros) February 23, 2017
The redshirt sophomore ended last season with 61 total tackles, 40 of them solo, 14 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Thomas was a top performer in four out of the six workouts. He tied for fifth on the bench press with 30 reps, was fourth in the three-cone drill with a time of 6.95 seconds, fifth in the broad jump with 126 inches and finished in third in the 20-yard shuffle with a time of 4.28.
Thomas also had a 40-yard dash time of 4.69 seconds and a vertical jump of 35 inches.
At 6-foot-3, 273-pounds he primarily lined up as a defensive end and that is where he was most effective. He has incredible strength and likes to use his bull rush move to manhandle opposing offensive linemen. If that doesn’t work, he uses his fast hands to get blockers off him and will use a swim or spin move to get into the backfield.
Thomas also has quick instincts when it comes to avoiding chop blocks. After watching his film it was rare to ever see him on the ground, Thomas usually avoided the initial hit, shoved the offensive linemen into the turf and continued his pass rush. To go along with his quick instincts, Thomas has a quick burst off the line of scrimmage. He does an exceptional job of timing the snap to give him a half a step on the opposition.
He isn’t just a physical player, but a smart one as well. There were several plays where he noticed the linemen weren’t fully engaged with their blocks and instead of going up the field he stopped his pass rush, found the ball carrier and was in pursuit to help make the tackle.
Thomas is an outstanding football player and it makes sense as to why he is in contention of being a top five pick in the draft, but the Stanford standout does have some downsides.
First, at 273-pounds he isn’t quite big enough to play inside. At times when he played nose tackle, he was washed down and taken out of plays. Thomas also likes to get a head start on his rush and last season that resulted in seven offside penalties. Lastly, he was unable to finish plays, if an opposing quarterback made a sudden move Thomas would miss an opportunity to get himself a sack.
Below are some clips that reinforce what I said above.
On this play, Thomas is lined up over the guard, and as soon as the ball is snapped, he engages with his man then does a spin move that takes him to the tackle and runs past him. Thomas gets in the backfield but North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky avoids him by slightly moving to his right and is able to complete the pass. Thomas did a great job of getting into the backfield but was unable to finish the play.
In the above clip, Stanford has a 25-23 lead and after North Carolina scored a touchdown they went for the two-point conversion to tie the game. Thomas times the snap perfectly, gets in the backfield, chases Trubisky and tackles him with one hand. During the most crucial point in the game, Stanford’s star was able to finish the play and seal the victory for his team.
Here, Thomas gets past his man easily and uses the offensive linemen to swing his body around to help locate the ball carrier. Once Thomas sees it’s a screen to the slot receiver, he immediately pursues him before he can make any forward progress and makes the tackle for no gain.
On this play, Thomas is lined up on the inside and engages with the guard and is immediately stood up. He gets pushed back and the guard then puts him on the ground. At times when Thomas was lined up on the inside, he was overpowered by interior linemen, which resulted in him being taken out of making a play.