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NFL Draft scouting report: Is Solomon Thomas an EDGE or defensive tackle?

Solomon Thomas has been gaining buzz lately, but does actually fit the Jaguars’ need at EDGE rusher?

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With draft season in full swing, the mocks and links are flying. One of the more recent names I’ve seen linked to the Jaguars is Solomon Thomas, based on the hype Thomas has been receiving.

The idea is that Solomon Thomas could be the Jaguars’ pick at fourth overall and play EDGE opposite of Yannick Ngakoue. While I believe Thomas is talented, and could potentially play EDGE in the NFL, I’m not sure if that’s his fit.

That isn’t a knock on Thomas, either.

Thomas’ best fit to me is interior defensive lineman as a 2i-technique, 3-technique, or a 4i-technique, consistently playing the shoulder of the offensive lineman he matches with, rather than a straight attack lining up on their chest.

For a refresher on techniques, here’s a graphic of which technique is where on the defensive line:

Thomas’ biggest question mark for his inside play is his size — 6-3, 276 lbs — giving him the “tweener” label by scouts and analysts: Is his size a better fit inside or as a defensive end?

Overall, his smaller frame alone speaks EDGE to me, but he’s an incredibly strong, athletic player that he could be the exception for “tweener” defensive tackles. He can be a star.

Thomas was an all-around defensive lineman at Stanford, and I still want to display his film, as there’s always the chance the Jaguars could draft him and work him as an EDGE. I just see defensive tackle as his fit.

Not only was he a great pass rusher — the redshirt sophomore recorded 12 sacks in two seasons at Stanford, including 8.5 in 2016 — but he is also gifted against the run, using his athleticism and strength to shed blocking guards like it’s nothing:

Plays like this are a consistent part of Thomas’s game. Although he is smaller in size, his hand usage is violent and his explosion is powerful and clean.

In the above play, Thomas rips the guard and yanks him out of his way with ease, leading to one of his 14 tackles for loss in 2016.

As Jaguars’ fans know, Malik Jackson, the team’s defensive tackle that usually lines up around where I project Thomas to play, isn’t in the position to lead a team in sacks. Thomas would be the same way inside, and that’s fine, because he can still create nasty pressure:

Here, Thomas makes his way to Mitch Trubisky’s right shoulder quickly and forced him to step into traffic. This is beneficial help that EDGE rushers need to create more sacks or to force the QB into bad throws and mistakes, and Thomas can provide it.

However, even though the defensive tackle won’t normally lead the team in sacks, Thomas’s athleticism and strength allows him to get to the QB more often than other defensive tackles, which leads to some sacks:

Here’s another sack, this time lining up as a 3T and swims to push the guard and make his way to the QB:

In watching Thomas’ tape, the majority of the time when he played defensive end, he played the 5T on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle, however he wasn’t nearly as successful “getting home” to the ball as he is inside, and was more of a strict pressure creator:

All in all, I see something special in Thomas playing inside. His athleticism, power, and clean mechanics are top notch, and I believe he’s going to be a star. However, after watching and re-watching his 2016 game film, I’m not sure he’s as much of an EDGE guy as he is on the interior.

None of us 100% know how Todd Wash will use his defensive end opposite of Yannick Ngakoue. However, if it’s used as a wise-outside rusher, I’m not sure that Solomon Thomas fits. If they still use the “big end” that Gus Bradley brought to Jacksonville — the 4i/5T type of end that can utilize stepping inside when the ball is snapped — with the under-SAM linebacker playing on the “big end’s” side of the line, then perhaps Thomas would fit.

Solomon Thomas is going to be a star. I’m just not sure if Jacksonville is his greatest fit based on presumptive need — a true EDGE rusher.