Fourth Round, 111th Pick
Shamarko Thomas is a throwback who should have been a linebacker in the 1950's NFL. He loves to fly around the field and hit, but his disregard for the health of himself and others might not play well in the modern NFL.
How will the rest of his game translate to the pros?
Thomas pops off of the screen because of his range, closing speed and hitting ability. He is a fast, decisive, physical presence on the field, and he makes a lot of plays near the line of scrimmage even though he often lines up at least ten yards off of it. He can blitz and cover slot receivers one-on-one with effective press coverage, and Thomas can also play as an extra linebacker in the box against the run. He gets low and moves like a linebacker one-on-one against a running back in space and routinely blows up screen passes.
"Reckless" and "out of control" are two ways to describe Thomas when he is at his worst. He'll take poor angles and miss tackles because he puts his head down or leads with his shoulder to make a big hit. His overaggressive nature causes him to be shaken easily in the open field.
Thomas bites on moves in coverage and will struggle in man-to-man coverage when his jam doesn't throw off the timing of the route.
Thomas's track background shows in his 4.42 40 and 40.5" vertical. He also benched 225 pounds 28 times, which is better than many linebackers. His closing burst and overall athleticism make him an impact player and a good last line of defense.
After losing both parents and becoming responsible as the oldest of six children, Thomas chose to stay in school and improve his draft stock and college transcript. He is an intimidating enforcer who plays at one speed—all out. Thomas brings his fast, rugged game to special teams coverage units, too.
Thomas lined up anywhere in the Syracuse defense—from free safety to in-the-box safety to slot corner. His physical gifts and intensity make him viable in all of those roles.
Playing the Ball
Once he spots the ball, Thomas has excellent instincts. He will undercut a route to make a pick, and if he can't get his hands on the ball, then he lines up the hit. Thomas is a punisher, who closes in time to make big hits against receivers that aren't prepared him for him to arrive.
Against the Run
Thomas is basically an extra linebacker against the run. He can take on a running back in the hole and stop his momentum cold. He prowls like a hunter and stays low enough to be able to react to sudden moves from backs in open space. Thomas does have a tendency to overpursue and give backs cutback lanes.
Syracuse used Thomas as a slot corner a few times here and there, and he was very effective, with pushy press coverage and a persistent nature. Thomas looks to land the first blow and keeps steering the wide receiver off track early in his route. He will use the sideline as an extra defender in the rare event that he is lined up against an outside receiver. When Thomas has to mirror a receiver one-on-one as a deep safety, he can overreact to initial moves and allow separation deep, but his aggressiveness will redeem him sometimes.
As in most aspects of his game, Thomas is comfortable playing downhill, and this makes him good in zone coverage. He reacts quickly to receivers passing through his area and flashes into the quarterback's vision to take away that option. He is also the kind of safety who will try to send a message any time he has the opportunity to hit a receiver on a crossing route.
Thomas is very strong and he has a powerful, compact build to lay the lumber to opponents. His eagerness to make the big hit causes him to give up extra yards and completely whiff because he forgets to wrap up.
Thomas can also be eluded when he is chase mode, but in open-field confrontations, he is as reliable a player to have between the ball and the end zone. He attacks receivers and backs and will bear down on them so quickly that they don't have a chance to even start a move on him. Thomas hits with a jolt and can drag down bigger running backs.
His overaggressive nature does result in a lot of reaching or lunging tackles because he is trying to recover from taking a bad angle or reacting to a move at the last moment.
The whole field is in Thomas's range. He can get from the opposite hash to the sideline in time to defend a wide receiver screen, and he quickly closes the 10-15 yards needed to stop a screen pass or pitch play. He sees the field with clarity and recognizes reverses and other misdirection plays.
Scheme Versatility/Future Role
Thomas projects as a strong safety who can make waves as long as he has a good free safety playing centerfield behind him. He might even be viable as a linebacker in a big nickel defense. He'll make an instant impact in kick coverage. Even though it was effective in college, Thomas's press coverage might be vulnerable to the ultra-quick slot receivers of the NFL.