Chad Thomas arrived at "The U" to much fanfare, widely recognized as a five-star recruit out of Booker T. Washington High in Miami, where he'd been honored as an All-State player and won state championships in both his junior and senior seasons.
Thomas wasted little time getting onto the field, seeing his first action in the team's season opener during his 2014 true freshman season. The following year, he started eight of 13 games, finally notching his first sack against Virginia Tech in mid-October.
During Mark Richt's inaugural year as head coach in 2016, Thomas was able to finish second on the team despite managing only 4.5 sacks. Dominating performances in a loss to Florida State and a Russell Athletic Bowl win over West Virginia cemented Thomas's status as a starter heading into his senior season, where he started all 13 games for the Hurricanes.
Thomas's Miami career ended with disappointing losses to Clemson and Wisconsin in the ACC Championship and the Orange Bowl, respectively, but his personal stock only grew after tallying 11 total tackles, four tackles for loss, and two sacks across both games. With a successful stop at the Shrine Game in his rearview mirror, Thomas's natural athleticism will only continue to help during the offseason circuit.
Former five-star recruit out of Booker T. Washington in Miami chose the Hurricanes over Alabama, Florida State, Arkansas and Duke. Is well-known for recording more than sacks. As a Miami area producer who goes by "Major Nine," Thomas produced the opening track, "Apple of My Eye," on hip-hop artist Rick Ross’s new album, "Rather You Than Me." Thomas was noted in the music trade by Miami underground hip-hop artist Ice Berg, who said Thomas was "superhuman" with all his talents.
Long, athletic player with good size and great natural strength with room to add bulk to his frame. Has played all along the line and will provide pressure from the edge even if asked to stand up. Enough coordination and speed to chase down plays in the flats when necessary. Shows some hand-fighting ability when he is in one-on-one situations and doesn't shy away from contact or try to simply speed around blockers. Is fast enough to reach running backs from the backside and does a nice job of keeping containment against rolling quarterbacks and cutback runs. Brings relentless energy and does not quit on plays. Does a nice job dipping and knifing between blocks when rushing from inside and has plenty of juice to chase down quarterbacks once he's free in the backfield. Strong enough to pull down bigger passers and runners once he gets his hands on them.
Lacks situational awareness at times and loses the forest for the trees. Will bull rush straight up the field all too often and miss a chance to press the pocket, allowing quarterbacks to step up underneath him and complete passes. Can overrun pockets because of one-track mind that seems to favor consistency over variety when it comes to pass rush moves. Gets lulled into repetitive attacks and begins to lean on offensive linemen rather than attack them. Allows too many blockers to get into his body because he stays high and reaches for them at times rather than exploding into them from below. Does not maintain leverage against double teams or running plays straight at him and allows offensive linemen to get under his pads, pushing him into the second level. Does not consistently jar offensive linemen and rarely knocks blockers off-balance.
Compares to: Za'Darius Smith, Baltimore Ravens - Like Thomas, Smith never quite provided the college production expected from someone with so much natural athleticism, strength and length. Smith and Thomas can both rush from multiple spots along the line, as well as standing up off the edge, but both will have entered the league with questions about technique, consistency, and polish, despite possessing the raw potential to become a strong player along a team's defensive front.
In our view: Thomas is a relentless guy who has the physical traits to make good on his energy more often than not. Still, Thomas tends to flash rather than dominate, and he's much more comfortable running straight ahead while relying on natural strength and athleticism rather than a refined set of pass rush moves or innate diagnostic prowess. If he can play with better leverage and learn to keep blockers off of his body, he has the talent to be a starter as a strong-side end in a 4-3, especially if he adds some variety to his attack and plays with more situational awareness. The tools and the effort are certainly there for Thomas to entice someone into taking a chance on the second-day, even if his production makes him a better match for the fourth or fifth round.