With the 2013 NFL draft fast approaching, it's time for a deep dive into some of the top prospects.
Today, we'll profile Dallas Thomas, the Tennessee lineman who projects as a mid-round pick.
Thomas tore his labrum during January practices for the Senior Bowl and his recovery—which doctors estimated could take four-to-six months—might impact his draft stock. But I'm not a doctor, so we'll analyze the versatile lineman based on his on-field performance.
Let's take a look at some of his best highlights.
I'll start by saying that I don't think Thomas has the strength and quickness to play tackle in the NFL. I see him more as an interior lineman, and a good one at that.
The very first play showcases Thomas' speed and hustle to get to the second level, and that's what you want to see out of a starting guard. But on the next play, you see him get driven back by an interior rusher, and that's a problem. It happens a few times throughout the course of this video, including at around 2:40.
Thomas is going to need to improve his overall strength, particularly his lower-body strength, if he hopes to anchor against the big boys in the NFL.
Right around 3:50, we see a play on which Thomas demonstrates his effectiveness as a puller—he pulls from the LG spot over to the right A gap and lands a powerful block that springs the runner for a big gain. For another notable example, he does it again at 4:40.
If Thomas can do that consistently in the NFL, he'll be a useful interior lineman even if his strength never improves.
However, another issue with Thomas is lateral quickness—at 4:30, you can see him get beaten laterally by a deke right, then a swim move to the left.
He may or may not be able to get away with middling quickness against speedy pass-rushers as an interior lineman, but he's almost certain to be a liability at LT in the NFL if he doesn't do more to keep up with speed rushers.
More good pulling in this clip and Thomas holds his own against a pretty menacing Gamecock defensive line.
He does an excellent job getting to the second level and engaging a defender (one example at 1:55) and he appears to explode well off the snap. Still, there are too many times where he fails to get a push in the run game and drive defenders back (see about 00:19 into this video).
Thomas is going to have to improve his leg strength and keep his pads even lower if he wants to leverage NFL defenders.
Yet again, we see defenders driving Thomas back (00:41). It's more of the same from Thomas, who displays good balance and explosiveness, but a lack of strength and lateral quickness. The more I watch him, the more he seems to profile as an interior lineman in a zone blocking scheme.
One positive to take away is that even when he gets driven back by a defender, he moves his feet well enough to sustain the block. That's an excellent trait and shows that, with a little coaching and weight training, Thomas could be a very good NFL lineman.
Thomas has the skill set of a good pro lineman, he just has to fill out (at 6'5", he's just 300 pounds) and learn to use his size to his advantage.
In case you're interested, here's a media session with Thomas via the Vol Report. He comes across as a likable guy. Almost sounds like he was trained by Bill Belichick to compliment every opponent.
Here's hoping he makes the leap to the NFL successfully—he can be a starting guard for years to come, with the ability to play tackle in a pinch.