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Post Draft Q&A: College and Magnolia says safety Daniel Thomas’ work ethic is unmatched

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“You’re getting an exceptionally hard worker and a guy who’s never going to let someone be better than him without exhausting every avenue first.”

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

As we continue getting insights into each of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2020 draft picks (12 picks in total), we are nearing an end to our post-draft Q&A series, as this is the 11th entry. Today, we’re focusing on former Auburn safety, Daniel Thomas.

To help us learn more about the rookie defensive back, we spoke with Jack Condon, managing editor of College and Magnolia — SB Nation’s Auburn Tigers community website.

1. What was Thomas’ role in the Auburn defense, and how do you see his skills transferring to the NFL?

Jack: Thomas blossomed from a bright-eyed kid making tackles and picks as a freshman to one of the leaders on defense commanding the attention of the rest of his teammates. What he was asked to do at his safety position was more of the run-stopping nature, finishing second of the team in 2019 in tackles. He was the guy who was going to come up and pound a running back coming through the line or chase someone down on the edge. To continue doing that in the NFL, he’ll probably need to add a little size and probably a little speed as well, but he did well enough in the best conference in the country to land with a pro squad. He’s got the skills, he’ll just need a little improvement to turn into a true run-stuffing safety in the pros.

2. Thomas has said that he is a “versatile” safety and a “sure tackler.” What would you say are Thomas’ strengths, and what aspects does he need to work on moving forward?

Jack: I mentioned it above, but he’s more of a run-stuffer than a pass defender. Not to say he was bad at playing the aerial game, but it wasn’t his particular strength. He’ll have trouble staying in man coverage against some of the more elite pass-catchers, but he won’t let much get behind him, especially in Cover Two. He’ll definitely smack a ball-carrier though, and he’s fantastic in run support. He just needs to watch out for running himself out of plays and he’ll be in pretty good position.

3. Thomas was a captain for the Tigers. What does he bring to the Jaguars in terms of leadership, character and maturity?

Jack: I’ll answer this question and the following question in concert. Daniel Thomas was only offered a scholarship at Auburn on National Signing Day back in 2016 after the Tigers missed on a couple of other prospects. He’s from right down the road in Montgomery, Alabama, and he jumped at the chance to play for the Auburn defense. He didn’t do a whole lot as a freshman before picking off Jalen Hurts twice in the 2016 Iron Bowl, helping Auburn stay close against the eventual national runner-up. His teammates saw the raw talent as a young kid, and they were able to appreciate his rise from contributor, to starter, to team leader. Working on a defense in 2019 with some real quality leaders like Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson, K.J. Britt (and playing alongside emotional leaders as a younger safety), Thomas got to learn from some of the best. He’s seen the loud and emotional style of leadership, the quiet performer, and everything in between. He’s going to bring high energy on and off the field to help his teammates excel.

4. As a bit of an unheralded recruit out of high school who ended up being a key contributor for Auburn, and a fifth-round draft pick, do you think Thomas plays with a chip on his shoulder and is the kind of player willing to outwork the competition? Why or why not?

Jack: I think he will play with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. I mentioned his recruiting story above, but the guy Auburn missed on was Nigel Warrior, who ended up at Tennessee. Thomas got drafted, while Warrior didn’t. You could say that he knew exactly whose spot he was taking on the Auburn roster, and he was determined to outperform him in college. He did whatever he could to benefit the team as a freshman, and this past season he made some absolute effort plays because he was mad that the other team was going to score or hit a big gainer, like this play:

5. Thomas will have a chance to compete alongside Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson at the safety spots in Jacksonville. How do you see his rookie year, and (assuming he stays healthy) professional career as a whole, unfolding: starter, backup, special teamer, etc.?

Jack: I won’t say that he’s a better safety than those guys, but he’s someone that I wouldn’t bet against. I can confidently say that he’ll find himself a spot on the roster as a backup and special teamer due to his hustle and fire. His whole career has been an “I told you so” statement when someone told him he couldn’t do it, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the starting roster before too long.

6. Anything else we should know about Thomas?

Jack: It can’t be overstated that Thomas has been overlooked his entire career, from being a small and unathletic high school player, to getting the last seat on the bench at Auburn, to becoming the player he always hoped he’d be. You’re getting an exceptionally hard worker and a guy who’s never going to let someone be better than him without exhausting every avenue first.

Thank you to Jack for providing great answers and analysis on what Thomas brings to Jacksonville. Be sure to follow College and Magnolia on Twitter for all Auburn news.

While I appreciate all of those who read this piece, there are obviously much more important things going on in the world today due to continued social injustices, racial inequality and police brutality. Please be sure to check out the following Big Cat Country articles as well: