Earl Thomas is one of the youngest players in the draft, turning 21 in May, but he has two years of experience starting at a powerhouse program. At SS he was a Freshman All-American in 2008 after breaking up 17 passes, picking off 2 and forcing 4 fumbles. Last year he upped his game to 8 interceptions with 16 more passes broken up, returning two for touchdowns and forced a fumble.
Thomas impressed at the combine, measuring out at a bigger than listed 5' 10 1/2" 208lbs (13lbs above his listed weight which some thought was inflated) and still running well at the combine (unofficial time was a 4.44). His successful bulking up means he can play any DB spot. He's got the cover skills and elite athleticism to move to CB, the deep speed and zone skills to sit on top as a FS and showed the size and strength at the combine to stay at his college position of SS. His flaws are a bit of over-aggressiveness leading to bites on PA fakes and overpursuit in run support, as well as not being polished in man coverage enough to be expected to be a man corner right away and struggling a bit to bring big players down quickly.
Shows smooth, fluid hips in his backpedal. Is a quick-twitch athlete, which would help him if a team decides to use him at cornerback. Exceptional short-area quickness. Can turn his hips....Thomas has perhaps the best ball skills of any defensive back in this year’s class – Eric Berry included. Thomas is a natural with the ball in the air. He catches the ball like a wide receiver and properly carries the ball. Possesses elite recognition skills – both against the pass and sniffing out the run. When he plays back in coverage, Thomas does an excellent job of reading the quarterback’s eyes..... Thomas has the skills to be a starting cornerback in the NFL. He stays low in his backpedal and doesn’t take false steps in his break. Adept playing in zone. Has the quickness and playing intelligence to give up a cushion and breaking back on the play..... Gives a good effort supporting the run, but doesn’t have the size to always be a factor. Breaks on the ball really well. Not much more than a help player against the inside run. Doesn’t have the size to shoot through gaps in the middle and can be manhandled by guards and centers. Does a nice job of working the outside run.....Solid wrap-up tackler in the open space and will lower his shoulder and pop the ball carrier. In traffic and near the line of scrimmage, Thomas will sometimes become an arm tackler and miss. When he shows good technique, Thomas shows he can lower his pads and run through receivers.
Recognizes what's coming quickly and has the speed to get to the spot to make a play. As a safety, he was a bit overaggressive, biting on play-action and underneath routes which leaves cornerbacks on an island.... Man Coverage: Needs technique work before making the move to cornerback. Backpedal is high and slow, and lags in recovery on double moves and catching up to receivers running quick outs or square-ins. Has the speed to turn and run with receivers.... Zone Coverage: Attacks throws in front of him and has good range as a safety. Can make the interception or a big hit to separate the man from the ball. Makes quarterbacks pay for late throws over the middle, baiting them into making poor decisions..... Willing to support the run. Flies into the action at full speed, pounding backs in the open field. Will overpursue and fail to break down, missing tackles....Heady, hard-working player on the practice field and in the weight room. Directs secondary and knows teammates' assignments.
Thomas is a ball-hawking safety with very good straight-line speed. Elite athlete with fluid hips who follows the quarterback's eyes and consistently jumps routes. Has the elusiveness to make people miss in space and can take an interception back to the house. Tough competitor who will fill in the running game and does not shy away from contact. Good tackler.
Thomas is lean and not very tall and may not have the strength to make plays inside the box at the next level. Size will also limit effectiveness against larger inside receivers who can out muscle him for the ball.
Thomas is a player who can have instant impact at safety or develop into a great corner. If he fell to Indy it would be hard to pass up the enormous talent even with 6 quality DBs under contract for next year.