Thomas spent five years in Australia in his youth, but his return to the States allowed him to develop first into one of the top high school players in the country (top 25 recruit nationally) and then one of college's top defensive linemen. After a redshirt season, Thomas was named honorable mention All-Pac-12 in 2015 (39 tackles, 10.5 for loss, 3.5 sacks). He had four tackles, two for loss, and a sack in the Cardinal's win over Iowa in the Rose Bowl. The redshirt sophomore kicked his game up a notch in 2016, receiving multiple All-American honors and winning the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Thomas led the team with 62 tackles, 15 for loss, while sacking the quarterback eight times. Thomas' bowl performance against North Carolina opened a lot of eyes, as he was all over the field in the Cardinal's win in a way that isn't even reflected in an impressive stat line (seven tackles, two for loss, sack)
Angular build, well-built frame. His mother, father and uncle were all collegiate athletes. Lined up at multiple positions. Has ravenous approach to the game. Gets out of the blocks quickly and attacks with early, skilled hands. Stays hungry and wants to feast. Powerful for his size. Shows ability to win with power or quickness. Outstanding athleticism. Fluid in his play. Transitions from move to move. Unpredictable pass rush. Attacks both the edges and can crank up a bull rush. Uses swipes, rips and arm-over to unlock his rush. Hands and feet work in unison. Has lightning-quick spin move he can access to unhinge from block and find new life in his rush. Violent disengagements from blocks leave no doubt blocker is whipped. Relentless approach combined with athleticism makes block recoveries extremely difficult in run or pass. Refuses extended engagements to blockers and works himself free. Will sniff out gaps and make himself skinny into the backfield. Very good pursuit speed and range as playmaker.
Considered a "tweener" by scouts, who believe he could struggle to keep enough weight on his frame to play along interior. Length is below average as five-technique. Plays with inconsistent pad level. Needs to get bigger and stronger through his lower body. Tends to play taller as play rolls along and can get washed out of plays by strong down blocks. Hands are quick but need more consistent pop behind them. Overall play strength can be improved. "Big and strong" across from him causes some issues. Gets engulfed at times. Snap-count guesser with seven offsides penalties in 2016.
Sources Tell Us
"He's damn good. I don't think he gets drafted as early as you do because he's not big enough for inside and he's not as long as you like on the outside. You have to figure out where you will play him, but he won't stop. He's going to be really productive." -- Director of scouting for AFC team
Explosive defender who combines strength, quickness, and a muscle-car motor to drive him around the field making play after play. Has the hands and feet to be a quick-win specialist and the size to fit as a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive end who can reduce inside for pass-rush downs. He has all the athletic traits to become a high-impact player and possesses more than enough skill and talent to believe he will continue to elevate his game as a pro. Thomas has the potential to become the best defender from this draft class and a future all-pro.