As the evaluation of so many NFL prospects comes to a head this time of year, there are almost always a handful of college players who fail to get the publicity that they deserve. After all, most of the hype is centered around those who are pegged to be a top-50 selections.
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From the third round and on, you’ll occasionally hear about a few under-the-radar players, but mostly they fail to hit the mainstream. Considering the Indianapolis Colts’ needs in the upcoming NFL Draft, they not only need a plug-and-play pass rusher, but they could also use another edge defender to come in as a rotational piece who ‘brings the mean’ against the run as well as one who can create pressure.
There are a good amount of mid-tier pass rushers in this draft, but one of those who sits near the top of that grouping is Chad Thomas from Miami. The 6-foot-6, 281 pound edge brings a lot more to the table than I presumed before diving into his tape.
Some edge rushers tend to give up on plays once they realize that they aren’t getting a sack, or directly in line to make the stop. Thomas isn’t one of those. For his size, he shows a ton of physicality at the snap and runs a surprisingly good arc when getting after the quarterback. He gets up field quickly rushing off the edge and can play inside as a defensive tackle in sub-packages as well.
Thomas is a smart player who keeps his vision in the backfield through the offensive line, and along with his ability to shed blocks allows him to be a force against the run. He has violent hands and good timing with his punch that along with his ability to change direction seamlessly helps him win in a variety of matchups along the line.
He also possesses a solid outside jab step allowing him to gain inside leverage against tackles, and when showing off his ability to be explosive at the snap Thomas can flat out plow through linemen with his bulrush.
With everything considered, the Colts did get good production out of Jabaal Sheard in 2017 and he impressed holding the edge as well. Thomas would ultimately give the Colts another well-rounded edge defender who could learn in the new system as it grows. He’d be afforded the luxury of learning from guys like Sheard and form a very nice rotation between himself, Tarell Basham and whoever else the Colts might draft heading into the future.
Thomas didn’t make a massive jump between his 2016 and 2017 campaigns, however, he did improve continuing to produce. His final two seasons in Miami featured him combining for 78 total tackles, 23.5 of those netting losses with 4.5 sacks in each season.
Trying to project how Chris Ballard and his scouting department view each prospect is an impossibility, but understanding that they have a real need for versatile, quick defensive linemen heading into the 2018 season, Thomas would be an intelligent target to fit the Colts needs. By no means is Thomas a perfect prospect, or even a top-5 option at the position, but he is a high motor, high effort player who brings power and speed from the next tier of pass rushers that will be available on Day 2.