2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Stanford DL Solomon Thomas

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

Solomon Thomas/EDGE/Stanford — 6’3”, 273 Lbs

The Good

-Able to sift through traffic to make stops against the run
-Great first step at the snap
-Explosive gap shooter with good pad level
-Shows ability to convert speed to power
-Great awareness, recognizes what OL is trying to do quickly
-Power packed frame with above-average weight distribution
-Raw, but solid pass rushing arsenal
-Moves well for size, appears fluid laterally and comfortable working in space

The Bad

-Struggles to hold up consistently against the run
-Played out of position at Stanford, which caused issues at times due to being undersized for a 3- or 5-tech
-A ‘tweener for the NFL
-Lacks height and rarely disrupts passing lanes
-Just 11.5 careers sacks and 12 QB hits in 27 career games with Stanford

Bio

-Former 5-star recruit at defensive end
-Started 27 games in two seasons at Stanford, finishing with 101 total tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and two touchdowns
-FWAA All-America second team
-AP All-America third team
-USA Today All-America second team
-All-Pac-12 first team
-Pac-12 All-Academic second team
-Named C.M. Hendricks Sun Bowl MVP in win over North Carolina

Tape Breakdown

Every year in the NFL Draft we seem to have a handful of defensive players that are just simply physical freaks, and Stanford’s Solomon Thomas certainly fits in that handful of “freaks” in this year’s draft class.

Standing 6’3”, 273 pounds, Thomas played mostly 3-tech and 5-tech over the last two years for the Cardinal, but he projects to more of an EDGE player in the NFL due to his size, speed, explosiveness and athleticism in space.

Despite being out of position at Stanford, Thomas didn’t really let that affect the way he could simply take over games and dominate for the Cardinal.

With a quick first step off the ball, impressive lower body explosion and the ability to convert speed to power efficiently, Thomas jumps out on film when watching the former 5-star recruit for the Cardinal.

While at Stanford, Thomas dominated at shooting gaps, which had a lot to do with the scheme, but when shooting gaps he shows off his great first step that gets him into the hole quickly, while also showcasing his lower body explosion to fly past offensive linemen grasping at air.

Shooting through gaps and blowing up offensive linemen is basically Thomas’ trademark coming out of Stanford. Although he doesn’t have a great standout trait, his ability to get off the ball quickly and blow up linemen to make stops is really, really impressive.

Against Colorado, Thomas was a serious problem for the interior of the Buffs’ offensive line, simply because of his explosiveness and power at the point of attack.

In a big spot against Colorado, Thomas blows up this Buffs guard and then finds the ball carrier to make the stop behind the line of scrimmage.

So often when watching Thomas at Stanford, this is what you’ll see on film against the run. A lot of it has to do with his great jump at the snap, which he anticipates well, but when he fails to anticipate the snap and doesn’t get a great jump, he doesn’t have the weight and lower body strength to hold up against bigger offensive linemen in the run game.

As you can see in the clip above, he doesn’t get a great jump at the snap, which gives the UCLA double team the leg up on Thomas. From there, Thomas is driven off the ball.

Fortunately for Thomas in this instance, the run goes away from him, so him being driven off the ball isn’t that bad, but it’s still not a great sight to see on film from a defensive linemen.

There are other clips out there of this happening to Thomas throughout the 2016 season, which leads me to believe he’s not cut out to be a 3-tech at the next level. He’s at his best when shooting gaps/penetrating into the backfield or reading what’s happening in front of him, not tying up blockers and trying to protect a gap.

But for every clip there is of Thomas getting walked off the ball against the run, there’s a clip like this against North Carolina in the Sun Bowl.

Holy smokes.

With the game on the line, Thomas shoots the gap low and hard, chasing down fellow future first round pick Mitchell Trubisky for the sack to win the game for the Cardinal.

Against the Tar Heels, Thomas was as dominant all game long as I’ve seen from a DL this draft season, including Missouri’s Charles Harris.

Moving forward, Thomas is a guy that can be a serious defensive weapon who can move around the defense depending on scheme, package and down situations.

He’s a guy that I project as a 4-3 defensive end playing the Wide 9 more often than not, allowing him to pin his ears back and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. But when it comes to obvious passing downs, I could see him shifting inside into an Aaron Donald-type role to rush the passer against guards and centers that he clearly has an explosion and athleticism advantage over.

When it comes to whom I see him playing like in the NFL, I see a lot of Chris Long with some Jason Babin sprinkled in. He’s still certainly raw, but he’s a guy that can be a serious defensive chess piece for a contending team.

Projection: Mid Day One

Games Watched:  vs. Kansas State (’16), at UCLA (’16), at Washington (’16), vs. Colorado (’16), at Arizona (’16), vs. Rice (’16), vs. North Carolina (’16)

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan LeggettSamaje Perine
Corn ElderBucky HodgesJames ConnerCooper KuppStanley Williams
Fred RossJamaal WilliamsGeorge KittleEjuan PriceChris Wormley
Jeremy McNicholsJoe MathisDerek BarnettAmba Etta-TawoGareon Conley
Taco Charlton Elijah McGuireRyan SwitzerTanoh KpassagnonTre’Davious White
Brian HillMatthew DayesDonnel PumphreyJosh ReynoldsNazair Jones
De’Veon SmithDavis WebbObi MelifonwuTJ WattJohn Ross
Jerod EvansVince BiegelJosh CarrawayJosh MaloneKevin King
Fadol BrownChris GodwinNate GerryJordan WillisStacy Coley
Zay JonesJimmie GilbertGlen AntoineTarell BashamDuke Riley
Rayshawn JenkinsChad KellyTrey HendricksonJeremy SprinkleJoe Williams
D’Onta ForemanCarlos WatkinsDamontae KazeWayne GallmanWillie Quinn
Xavier WoodsElijah HoodMalik McDowellDesmond King

  • The Tony

    Thomas definitely has the explosion to disrupt any play. Thomas has been regarded as the second best player in the draft who many think can go at pick two to the 49ers. I have some trouble seeing him going that high since he is nowhere near a finished product, but his upside is tremendous. Thomas is the type of player I can see a team making a trade to move up and get.

  • srdan

    I just hope he doesn’t somehow fall to the ravens

  • Steelers12

    i think him and Barnett could be all-pros or major busts

  • AndyR34

    Amen!

  • AndyR34

    A lot will depend on the team that selects them.

  • Michael James

    I’m sure that Thomas will become at least a good NFL starter (his floor), but I agree on Barnett. I see a huge bust-potential there.

  • Steelers12

    i see your point but i have learned in the NFL there is never a sure thing

  • VinHuddle

    I was probably late on noticing him than most. He dominated my Tar Heels in their bowl game and that’s when he first got my attention and wow, that was one Heck of an impressive game! Sadly since then he seems to have solidified a top 10 pk for I was really hoping he’d be available at 30. Seems to be a very impressive young man from all the interviews I’ve watched. Great future ahead.

  • Darth Blount 47

    No chance. Not even in the realm of possibility. Falling to the Bungles at 9 would be his worst case scenario. But I think this guy is a consensus top 5 pick a this point.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Soloman has a lot going for him. Smart kid (Stanford, duh) an insane motor, strong, very quick, mature, likable, he had a very good Combine. Easily one of the biggest risers in the draft, since there was initial talk months ago that he’d be a top 20 pick. Then it was top 10. Now it is top 5. The question is, where does he fit best? Not as tall and long as you’d like on the outside for a 3-4, with some questionable trunk/lower strength questions. And doesn’t have the natural speed to be a rush end in a 4-3. Doesn’t seem to be a good fit to move inside either. It would be maddening to find exactly where he would go. In college, he could get by just using his raw abilities to dominate. And sometimes, he absolutely made opposing O-lineman look silly. He dominated in game that I remember against Notre Dame, against the top flight talent ND is known to have there.

    But quite honestly, I almost think you let him pick his spot and then you start to build around him. He has the chance to be THAT good. Given his skill set, IF he added some pounds and could maintain his athleticism, and got into a weight room and improved upon his overall strength, I think Soloman could be the best 3-4 DE in the league. He has that sort of potential. However, and as much as I like him, I actually DO think he has some bust potential relative to draft positioning, IF he goes to a team that incorrectly utilizes him. I don’t project that as happening, but it could.

    The Browns aren’t taking him over Garrett, so what if he goes to SF, stays in the Bay Area, and joins the recent top draft selections there in SF? Honestly, for him, that may be the best scenario. The Bears at 3 and the Jags at 4 do NOT seem like good overall fits. His next best scenario is to go to Dick LeBeau out in Tennessee at 5 and do what I said and transition to a 3-4 DE full time. I have a feeling Dick would be giddy to get him, but would be interesting since I don’t think the Titans are planning on going anything like that with the 5th pick.

  • Darth Blount 47

    I think SF makes a lot of sense. Keep him in the Bay. And add to what has been a very highly supplemented D-Line by them recently. Since the Browns would be crazy not to take Garrett, the draft truly starts at 2 this year, since SF could go a number of ways.

  • Steve

    Biggest problem I see with Thomas is a leverage issue. His first move is up and for a 3-tech/5-tech you first move has to be to stay low, not loosing your power and leverage. Thomas seems to have good hands and easily handles the blocker in front of him. Getting rid of the blocker, and on to the ball carrier. Great speed for a Big man, quick out of the blocks.
    In the last Gif, the Tar Heels were not very smart. Stanford was in an all out blitz, keeping 3 in coverage. A screen would kill that Blitz. What #79 was doing back peddling to his left. The left guard runs strait down the line to his left – Where was the back? What a busted play.. Neither the left guard nor tackle touches a defender. They give a “Look Out Block” – what a mess.

  • popsiclesticks

    I take the Aaron Donald types, put them at DE in my 3-4, and let them dominate from the inside on the 65% of snaps we’re in nickel. I was advocating this with the original guy who reminded me of Aaron Donald, and that was Aaron Donald. Alas, he did not make it to 15.

  • Gabe Rosen

    PFF rated Thomas #1 at his position against the run, FWIW.