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Earl Thomas (Texas)
Height : 5'10"
Weight : 195 lbs
40 Time : 4.45
Thomas is one of the more interesting prospects entering the draft in April. He's only a sophomore but, since he's three years out of high school, he's eligible for the draft. His time at Texas wasn't wasted and though his minimal time at Texas limits his progression, his production is impressive and will make one of the more sought out corners in his class.
As a redshirted freshman, Thomas exploded onto the scene, posting up 17 tackles, two interceptions, and broke up 17 passes. The longhorn defense wasn't especially strong near the end of Thomas' career, but his performance was exceptional nonetheless.
His last year at Texas proved to be just as effective as the '08 season. He finished second on the team with 77 tackles, eight interceptions, and 16 broken up passes.
Thomas' straight line speed isn't the greatest, but he uses a mean burst of speed to close in on the defender in open field. Unlike his corner counterparts in April, the former Texas defender excels in zone coverage but struggles at times at man coverage.
His backpedal is fundamentally perfect, staying low and tight off the receiver to cut off the inside route. He keeps his eyes on the quarterback and takes unnecessary gambles which forces him in vulnerable turn-arounds on the sidelines.
As a run support corner, Thomas has the physicality needed to be effective at the next level, but his tackling ability lacks a proper wrap-up technique. His vulnerability to the sweep virtually disappeared in '09. He has a high football IQ for his age and stays aware at the line, watching for the fake like a middle linebacker.
One of his greatest skills is reading the play-action and staying inside the wide out and using his acceleration to cut outside to cut off the slow ball. He has pro-like recognition on the outside, passing the fly route off to the safety and staying home for the crossing routes that typically get met with open space at the collegiate level.
Thomas' hands aren't the softest in the league, but he has great jumping ability to knock away the pass in open space. He has tremendous body control and can contort his body to stay off the defender and avoid unnecessary flags when it matters most.
Thomas' true skill set is his versatility. In a league where injuries leave holes in the defensive backfield, Thomas could walk into any club and serve as a nickel corner or a strong safety. He can cover space like Polamalu and tackle like Sharper.
His size isn't the best, but his physical athleticism will garner plenty of attention at the combine next week and Texas' pro day later in the spring. Either way, Thomas' ball skills are a commodity in a league suffering from weaknesses at corner. Look for a team like the New York Giants to utilize a late first-round pick to bolster their defensive backfield.
The Giants have question marks at corner and could even use a player of Thomas' caliber to plug the holes at safety, as well. Expect Thomas to be a surprise first round acquisition but answer all the doubts in the 2010 season.