Prospect: Phillip Thomas, SS/FS, Fresno State
Grade: 7.5 (Grading Scale)
+Plus height and solid bulk for the position.
+Physical player, strong upper body and overall strength profile.
+Able to anchor and drive his legs – rarely gets run through.
+Doesn’t have elite speed, but should run in the low 4.5 range.
+Gets to top speed quickly, accelerates well out of his breaks.
+Changes direction well, better forward/backward than laterally.
-Nasty leg/ankle injury ended his 2011 season before it began.
+Asked to play a lot of different roles – Single high / deep half / edge rush.
+Tough player, can see his passion on the field.
+Team captain as senior for Fresno State.
+Coachable kid, DB coach Tim McDonald has helped him with the mental aspects.
+Works hard in the film room, complements his instincts.
+Reads the quarterbacks eyes well in zone, but doesn’t over-commit.
+Tracks the ball well in the air, disrupts a lot of catches.
+Excellent ball skills, led the nation with eight interceptions in 2012.
+Returned three of those interceptions for touchdowns.
+Able to disguise coverages, helps bait QB’s into poor decisions.
+Loose hips, fluid changing direction.
+Transitions well from his backpedal to closing.
+Gets his head around and locates the ball.
+Able to stick with backs and tight ends when asked to in man.
+Attacks the line of scrimmage, physical player.
+Big hitter that doesn’t have to lose fundamentals to deliver a blow.
+Excellent rushing off the edge, closes on the ball carrier quickly.
+Willing to take on blockers, can shed receivers, tight ends or running backs and make the stop.
+Made a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage – 12 tackles for loss as senior.
-Questionable angles taken on multiple occasions.
-Inconsistent open field tackling, elusive backs gave him fits.
-Doesn’t always come in under control, needs to sink his hips.
Phillip Thomas is one of the top three safeties in the 2013 NFL Draft class and if it were not for one small flaw in his game, he might have earned the top spot.
Thomas is the “Troy Polamalu” of the Bulldogs’ new 3-4 defense and does a lot of the same things that the Steelers safety is asked to do. He can attack the ball and receivers from a single high safety position, rush from the edge, support the run from inside the box, or cover receivers running down the field.
He has very good feet for a bigger corner and his physical play sets him apart from a lot of guys that can tally eight interceptions in a season.
Thomas’ major flaw is his open field tackling. He stays a little high through the process, failing to sink his hips to allow for better lateral quickness. Boise State and Oregon running backs especially were able to use this deficiency to bust some big runs.
If an NFL team can correct this issue, they will be getting a safety prospect that really understands the game, taught by a six time pro-bowl safety in Tim McDonald. Look for Thomas to be a top fifty pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.