Throughout the offseason, we’ll be profiling players who may end up in Denver when all is said and done with the 2017 NFL Draft. The Broncos clearly have plenty of holes to fill before they get back to Super-Bowl form and we’ll be examining a long list of players they may choose to help the franchise do just that.
There’s a feeling around the league that defensive lineman Solomon Thomas could have the highest ceiling among all of the defensive players in this year’s NFL draft behind top-prospect Myles Garrett. At 6-foot-3, 273 pounds, Thomas possesses the size, skill set and productivity in college to make one of the best prospects in the draft.
After finishing out his time at Stanford as the 2016 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Thomas is currently the third-best prospect in the draft, only falling behind fellow defensive lineman Garrett and Jonathan Allen.
Thomas’s greatest strength is his versatility across the board—from where he can play, to what he can play to how he can play it. In the right defensive scheme, Thomas can play on either the outside or the inside of the defensive line, depending on the situation. He can also play both the run and pass at an extremely high level by using a variety of techniques.
“I can rush anywhere. I can play anywhere. I play every down,” Thomas said at the combine. “I’m great stopping the run, great rushing the quarterback. I’m very versatile. I have toughness. I try to get after every (offensive) lineman and put the fear of God in them and make a play. I’m just trying to get to the quarterback every play and wreak havoc.”
As a pass rusher, Thomas has the athleticism and speed to go around the outside of a tackle, he has the power to go through offensive lineman with a bull rush and he has the finesse to sneak through the middle of the line. Against the run, Thomas is able to protect his lanes effectively against double teams and break loose from blockers to make the tackle.
“Of course I consider myself a smart guy coming from Stanford,” he said. “But what I take pride in is my relentlessness and my toughness and how I play the game with a motor and high effort.”
Along with his on-field skills, he has a high motor and an NFL caliber frame.
While Thomas has the frame to be a great NFL player, there are concerns that he may not be able to grow into that frame. At 273 pounds, Solomon needs to add at last 20 pounds of muscle to his frame to be able to play against NFL size and talent.
“I can beef up and be that 3-4 defensive end, or slide down to a ‘3’ if they go to an over front,” Thomas said. “I can also be a 4-3 defensive end and still move down to that ‘3’ technique. I can move outside if you want me to. I’ll play wherever they need me to. I can play ‘em all.”
If he is able to do this, he will likely be a force on a defensive line for many years to come. If not, he could be the one getting bullied by offensive lineman.
How he fits in Denver
If the Broncos are somehow able to land the top-five prospect, he would be a defensive end in their 3-4 scheme. After not finding an adequate replacement for Malik Jackson after he left last offseason, Thomas would likely be the answer a year removed.
Thomas would immediately help against the run and would provide even more pass rush from already the league’s best unit. With plenty of upside it would be hard for Denver to pass on Thomas, the only problem is it’s highly unlikely they will even have a chance to grab him.