After the conclusion of the 2016 season, Solomon Thomas called it a career for his college days and is headed to the 2017 NFL draft. Now it is time to break down his possible impact in the NFL and how the Cardinal will replace his impact on the defense.
Over the two seasons that Thomas saw the field, he recorded 11.5 sacks with 25.5 tackles for loss and two touchdowns. He also recorded 101 tackles in his time at Stanford, all while eating up innumerable double teams and helped free up other edge rushers or linebackers to get to the quarterback. But can he translate to the next level?
With the increased importance of the quarterback and the rise of the passing attack, the edge rusher has become ever more important to NFL defenses. At 6’3” and 273 pounds, along with a 40 yard dash time that hovers around 4.58, he fits the mold of the pass rusher that NFL teams want. But Thomas is also at his healthiest going into the draft after adding 30 pounds of muscle and dropping fat in the offseason, he is now faster and stronger than ever. He hit 30 reps of 225 on the bench press and dropped his 40 time buy .2 seconds while getting his body fat to 8.1 percent. He also posted a 10’2” broad jump with a 34” on his vertical.
Pro Comparison - Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks
While the offensive lines of pro football are really good, his ability to bull rush or try and speed rush around the edge gives him a few things to throw at a guard or tackle. He also is athletic enough to play allover the defensive line but fast enough to play back at outside linebacker and drop into the flat to fake the blitz. This is why my comparison is Bennett, instead of J.J. Watt, who I see lots of writers are comparing him to. This year Bennett lined up in no less then six spots on the defensive front this year alone, but he also played them in different ways. He was able to play with his hand in the ground or standing up in all four spots on the defensive line as well as getting snaps at inside and outside linebacker. This shows that he can rush the passer (obviously) but is also able to back out when standing up and play in coverage. His ability to play at defensive tackle or on the edge shows his size and strength coupled with blinding speed at his size. Solomon Thomas has all those raw variables and is trending in the right direction physically headed into the draft.
Where He Ends Up
Like I said, edge rushers are in high demand but there are some teams who have a more pressing need for a edge rusher and quarterback killer than others. The New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs all had under 30 sacks this year. While the Chiefs had injuries on the line the Raiders and Jets were to surprisingly bad teams with the talent they have in their front seven. Look for them to add an edge rusher in the early rounds.
While Thomas is a great talent and looks pro ready right out of the raft, he is in the same draft as Myles Garrett and Jonathan Allen. This means he is probably going to be a late first round or second round pick. This adds better teams with middle of the road pass rush to the mix like the New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys or Pittsburgh Steelers.
Best Fit- Pittsburgh
I really think that this is the best fit for Thomas. He would be put in a front with other young studs in Alvin Dupree and Ryan Shazier. Both these players are also versatile, which makes the idea of throwing Thomas in the mix even more tantalizing because the options are endless with where everyone would line up and how they could show you all different kinds of blitz and stunts to attack the quarterback. This defense also has the seventh best offense in the NFL, which means there is less pressure on the defense because of the assurance of their offense putting up plenty of points.
The Stanford Recovery
While the talent of Thomas is irreplaceable, Stanford has put lots of guys in the NFL and found was to find new talent to add to the roster. Curtis Robinson at linebacker was one of my favorite players from last year’s recruiting class that has spent a year learning the system and is primed for a breakout year this season.
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