The NFL Draft is now just a week away. We’re almost there, folks!
This will be the last piece of my three-part series on making the case for and against prospects that have been commonly mocked to the Jaguars with the 4th overall pick. On Tuesday, I covered Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, and yesterday I went over Louisiana State running back Leonard Fournette.
Today, I’ll take a look at Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.
Why the Jaguars should draft Thomas
If I were lazy, I would just copy and paste my reasoning as to why the Jaguars should draft Jonathan Allen here, because while Allen and Thomas aren’t the exact same prospect, they would be drafted to play the same position here in Jacksonville.
Thomas is a bit different dynamically than Allen, however. Standing at 6-3, 273 lbs, Thomas is faster and more agile than Allen: He’s simply a better athlete — He ran a 4.69 second 40 yard dash, a 6.95 second 3 cone drill, and a 4.28 second 20 yard split — All of which ranked in the 80th percentile or higher in comparison to NFL defensive ends.
Thomas, like Allen, is also a technician with clean mechanics off of the line, with nasty hand usage and physical dominance in one on ones vs. offensive lineman. In two seasons as a starter at Stanford, he recorded 12 sacks, 24.5 tackles for loss, and four forced fumbles.
As I stated in my article on Allen, the Jaguars need to address their pass rush further than just signing Calais Campbell:
Campbell is a hell of a player, no question. He’s coming off of an eight sack season and has recorded 56.5 sacks in his nine year career. However, as I pointed out, he turns 31 in September. He’s going into his tenth season in the NFL.
The Jaguars need to build a dominant pass rush, as Tom Coughlin did during his time in New York with the Giants, as well as how he did with the Jaguars when he was the head coach years ago:
You know the old saying, “Defense wins championships”? Tom Coughlin knows that. He’s won two Super Bowls while hosting an elite defense (the Giants had 53 sacks the season they won Super Bowl 42, and 48 sacks the season they won Super Bowl 46).
The most basic logic in the Jaguars drafting Jonathan Allen is that he would be an immediate and likely (barring injury) long-term impact player at strong side defensive end, which is something the Jaguars need to address: The pick would make perfect sense.
In this case, swap Allen’s name with Thomas’, and the pick still makes sense.
Why the Jaguars shouldn’t draft Thomas
I label Allen as a high floor, low ceiling player as a defensive end; I label Thomas as a high ceiling, low floor player as a defensive end.
With Thomas, you’re getting a gifted athlete and a technician on the defensive line, but his transition into being an NFL player is a complete projection. While that may not be a bad thing, especially for an athlete like Thomas, it’s scary to think about, and it lowers a player’s floor.
Thomas was never a true pass rushing defensive end at Stanford. He played defensive end some; He rushed the passer some. But, Stanford seemingly had him playing several different positions and techniques (2i, 3T, 4T, and EDGE), and he never found a true “home” position.
Thomas, as I stated above, is 6-3, 273 lbs, with 33 inch arms. While his tape at Stanford shows a disruptive defensive lineman, especially along the interior, his shot at making it as a full time interior defensive lineman is slim, as 61% of NFL interior defensive lineman are taller than him, and 67% of NFL interior defensive lineman weigh more than him.
So, Thomas is going to have to make the transition to being a majority-defensive end (with occasional snaps inside on pass rushing downs) in the NFL, which was never a true “home” position to him at Stanford. Again, Thomas is a special athlete, and owns clean mechanics and power, especially through his nasty hand usage, so with good coaching, I’m sure he could make the transition to being a defensive end for the majority of his snaps. But, it’s going to be a tough transition to make, and knowing that, his floor falls pretty low.
Besides the transition, however, Thomas is like Jonathan Allen: There aren’t many negatives to be had. He could certainly use another pass rush more or two, but with a ceiling as high as his, he has room to learn more and grow as a pass rusher, which will come with his transition to DE.
Out of the three players in this series, I believe Jonathan Allen would be the smartest selection for the Jaguars with the 4th overall pick. However, whether he’s gone or it comes down to deciding between Allen or Thomas, I certainly wouldn’t be upset if the Jaguars drafted Thomas.
Thomas has the potential to be an All-Pro. However, it’s exactly that: Potential. Solomon Thomas as a prospect must be viewed as a projection as he will be drafted as a majority defensive end. But in Jacksonville, his learning process in working and rotating with Calais Campbell at strong side defensive end, plus having Marion Hobby and Jason Rebrovich as his defensive line coaches, I believe Thomas’ can make the transition, and his potential might be too good to pass up.