Chase Thomas- 2013 NFL Draft Scouting Report



+Already has experience at 3-4 outside linebacker
+Football IQ
+Strength (relative to size)


-Tight hips
-“Jack of all trades, master of none” as a pass rusher

Stanford outside linebacker Chase Thomas is an extremely interesting prospect. There are lots of aspects of his game that I am very fond of, but also I wonder how well his skills translate in the NFL.

There is one thing I immediately want to make clear: I see Chase Thomas as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. He is versatile, and many say that, if he added bulk, he could play defensive end in a 4-3, but I simply don’t think that’s a good idea simply because Thomas already has experience at 3-4 outside linebacker. It’s very tough to find guys who played in a 3-4 defense in college and have a natural position in a 3-4 in the NFL. I haven’t counted each individual team, but I believe roughly 15 of college football’s 120 teams run a 3-4 defense. Guys who already have experience in a 3-4 are hard to find in the college level. Why would you move them to a 4-3? So I definitely believe that Thomas is most valuable as a 3-4 outside linebacker prospect, because unlike other 3-4 outside linebacker prospects (namely Brandon Jenkins), Thomas actually has played 3-4 outside linebacker!

Thomas has excellent stats. In 2011, he got 52 tackles, 17.5 TFL’s, 8.5 Sacks, and he forced an excellent 5 fumbles. He also received significant playing time as a sophomore in 2010, getting 70 tackles, 11.5 TFL’s, and 7.5 sacks. His stats are among the best of any player in this year’s draft class.

Thomas has average physical tools. He has good height for an outside linebacker at 6’4, but he could afford to add some bulk considering he is only 240lbs, and he has below average speed for his size with a 4.74 40 yard dash. However, thanks to his height, I do believe that could play strongside outside linebacker in a 3-4 and be decent in coverage against tight ends. Since his height should allow him to cover tight ends, the 4.74 40 shouldn’t be a big issue for the sake of coverage.

Thomas probably has the best instincts and football IQ of any outside linebacker in this class. He is extremely smart, he does an excellent job of disguising his blitzes, he is smart enough to play middle linebacker (which he often does on passing downs, since he does a good job of creating interior pressure), he is very quick to read offensive line schemes, and he does a good job of hiding his gap assignments. He also has an impressive nose for the football.

Thomas has decent but unspectacular strength. He does an adequate job of wrapping up ball carriers and making tackles, and he is surprisingly good at using his strength to create legitimate pressure and sack the quarterback. He also does a good job of using his strength and excellent tackling fundamentals to force fumbles. In 2011, he forced 5 fumbles.

Thomas has adequate quickness and athleticism. His long speed is poor, but he reaches top speed very quickly and he has excellent side to side agility. However, his hips are very tight, which will hurt him in coverage and makes certain pass rush moves (namely the spin) effectively useless. I do worry about Thomas in coverage, but, right now, I trust him against tight ends. Maybe the most difficult thing for him in regards to covering tight ends is his lack of bulk; physical tight ends will be able to use their size to create separation. That being said, if he adds any more weight, he’ll become so slow that covering tight ends would be difficult. I think he can survive as a strongside outside linebacker in the NFL, but I can’t help but be worried.

Thomas uses solid fundamentals. He has a wide array of pass rush moves, he understands how to get good leverage on an offensive lineman to shed off blocks, and he uses his hands quite effectively. Something that does worry me though is the fact that he appears to have short arms on film. Many pass rush moves (swim, rip) require the defender to hit the arm of an offensive lineman and move the arm of that lineman so the defender can shed the block. His short arms are going to make effective hand usage difficult in the NFL, since, once engaged in a block, he might not have the length necessary to hit the opponent. Against NFL linemen whom are both tall/long but also do a good job of staying low in pass protection, effective hand usage will be difficult for Thomas.

Ultimately, the biggest thing that worries me about Thomas is that I am not sure he has any one weapon in his arsenal powerful enough to truly create pressure in the NFL. He is quick enough to use his quickness to create pressure at the college level, but, at the NFL level, his quickness would only be average. He is strong enough to use his strength and fundamentals to use pass rush moves and gain good leverage at the college level, but he might not be strong enough to do that in the NFL. I really don’t see any one method that Thomas can use create pressure at will in the NFL. He’s the jack of all trades, but the master of none. No aspect of his game is likely going to dominate linemen at the NFL level. I can’t help but say, it worries me.

NFL Comparison: Aaron Maybin, but  more fundamentally sound and better in run support. I realize it is a very strange comparison, but Maybin, like Thomas, has no individual trait that separates him from the pack as a pass rusher. Thomas will be better than Maybin, because he has better instincts, he is better in run support, and he’s a bit more polished, but don’t expect Clay Matthews, Brooks Reed, or Ryan Kerrigan.

Grade: 82 (deserves to be a late second round pick)

Projections: 88 (will be an early second round pick)