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Solomon Thomas plays like 'smaller version' of J.J. Watt

If J.J. Watt is the gold standard for NFL defensive ends, the club that drafts Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas just might strike it rich.

At 6-feet-3, 273 pounds, the Cardinal junior doesn't have quite have the size or length of Watt, the Houston Texans' three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. But analyst Lance Zierlein believes Thomas is similar to the player Watt was as a draft prospect out of Wisconsin.

"J.J. was good at Wisconsin, but he wasn't dominant. His motor was relentless and you could see the talent, but it didn't really click for J.J. as far as how to use his strength and power until about halfway through his rookie year," Zierlein said. "Thomas looks a lot like that right now. He's fluid, it looks effortless, he can string moves together. There's a wicked spin move there that he hasn't even fully developed yet. He can move around and play different spots. He doesn't have the arm length of a Watt and he's got to add some mass, but he looks like a smaller version of Watt. Both are physical freaks."

Zierlein said he was impressed with Thomas' play against some of the toughest competition he faced this season, against Notre Dame and Southern Cal. Although Thomas played some along the interior, he drew reps against three of the top tackles in college football in those two games: Chad Wheeler and Zach Banner of USC, and Mike McGlinchey of Notre Dame. Against the Fighting Irish, he recorded a game-high 12 tackles (10 solo) with 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Zierlein posted some impressive action from Thomas in that game via Twitter.

Thomas announced on Wednesday that he intends to file for early eligibility to enter the 2017 NFL Draft. NFL scouts have told Zierlein that Thomas could run as fast as a 4.58 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

"I think he's a natural 5-tech who can rush the passer. But because he's such a good athlete, if you're an open minded defensive coordinator, you could let him play some 3-tech or even stand him up on the outside," Zierlein added. "He's so good with his hands, he can get to the quarterback from the inside. He won't let guys get a square shot. His hands and feet work in perfect unison and he's always working the blocker's edge. Once he's in that seam, you're finished."

Thomas led Stanford in tackles for loss (13.5) and sacks (7) this season, and was a dominant presence in the Cardinal's Sun Bowl win over North Carolina.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*.

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