40 time: 4.44
Draft board overall prospect rank: #15
Draft board safety rank: #2
Overall rating: 87*
1/23/10: Undersized and has poor tackling form, but he hits hard and his fundamental tackling issues can be corrected. He’s only 20 years old, but he had 8 picks this year showing his ballhawking abilities as a free safety. He has decent coverage skills too and could be looked at as a cornerback, though he has more value as a safety. His only issue will be at 5-11 190, fighting through the physicality at the line of scrimmage on running plays, and also, as is the case for someone who plays as wildly as he does at a small size, injuries in the future could be a concern.
Earl Thomas is an undersized safety with a knack for making big plays on the defensive side of the football. Thomas came to Texas as an unknown safety, but made a huge impact as a redshirt freshman in 2008 with 71 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, and 2 picks and earned himself Freshman All-American recognition, which put him on many draftniks’ radar. To follow that up, Thomas made the First-Team All-American in 2009 and earned himself a reputation as a big time defensive playmaker with 8 picks, 2 pick sixes, a forced fumble, as well as 63 tackles, 44 of which were solo. He may be undersized but he has amazing athleticism with long lanky arms, good bulk, and a small amount of body fat. He hits hard and is extremely physical as evidenced by his 5 forced fumbled in 2 years, but his tackling fundamentals need some work because having someone as small as him not tackling properly is bad. However, he can definitely be coached into a better tackler. His speed in the open field is amazing and he has excellent closing speed to finish off ball carrier, denying them that extra yard or two, or to close on the ball while its in the air and get a pick, something he did 8 times this season. He has excellent hands and patrols a zone extremely well, though his ability to cover a guy man to man and predict where a wide receiver is going aren’t very good. He’s only 20 years old and has plenty of upside with his athleticism. He may be overly physical for his size in the NFL and that could lead to injuries. He needs to learn to read a quarterback better. His picks are mostly the result of his excellent closing speed, high vertical leap, and soft hands, but he doesn’t read quarterbacks extremely well, though that is to be understood because of his age. He plays some strong safety in college, but he’s not big enough to play that position in the NFL. He’s really going to be at a disadvantage if asked to cover a tight end. Some see him as a cornerback, but I don’t see him as much more than a nickelback in the NFL, unless it were in a zone scheme, because his man coverage skills leave a lot to be desired. Either way, it would take him a while to learn the position, and he is best utilized in the NFL as a free safety, where he can make an impact right away and start in the NFL starting in his 2nd year in the league, possibly towards the end of his 1st year, though his youth and inexperience are a bit of a concern. How he will handle the physicality of the NFL is unknown at the moment. Because of his size, he may struggle covering close to the line of scrimmage, and also coming up and either blitzing the quarterback or helping against the run. He never showed himself to be a good blitzer in college and he could have a lot of trouble breaking into the area close to the line of scrimmage to defend the run because of his size. Right now, he’s looking at the top 25 picks. He deserves to be drafted higher than Taylor Mays, but I’m not sure he will be, especially if Mays lives up to his expectations at the combine. However, he’s going to be one of the first three safeties off of the board and that almost makes him a first round lock.
NFL Comparison: Nick Collins
*= For a breakdown of what this means, click here