After his stellar senior season that he capped off with an equally dominant performance at the 2014 Senior Bowl, many talent evaluators had elevated Thomas' draft prospect to within the first 50 selections. Most scouts in attendance down in Mobile went home confident that he had the ability to operate in space and that is a critical requirement for guards on traps and pulls.
Throughout his career with the Tigers, Thomas showed that he plays with good balance. He has the foot quickness and knee bend to easily mirror and slide to challenge edge rushers, along with good overall flexibility. He runs with a normal stride, displaying the ability to adjust in space.
Thomas is a power-oriented blocker who has developed an aggressive nature. He is smooth and sudden coming out of his stance and has above average lateral range. He maintains balance on the move, especially when having to redirect and recover working in-line.
As a senior, Thomas maintained his hold as one of the elite left tackles in college. On the field for 865 plays, fifth-highest in a season for a Clemson tackle, he recorded 32 knockdowns. The team co-captain also paved the way for another record-breaking season by the Tigers, as they again won 11 games and finished 10th in the nation with 6,600 yards in total offense, just missing the team season record they set in 2012.
While shorter than ideal at 6-foot-3, the 317-pounder shows that he has very good balance and the reach (34 3/8" arms) to latch and control on the perimeter. He will likely return to his "roots" as an offensive guard at the professional level, because he has demonstrated that he is very capable of operating in a smaller space, but because of his knee injury, Thomas will likely be a draft day "steal" in the later rounds.
Thomas appeared in 49 games at Clemson, starting 39 times, including thirty assignments at left tackle and nine at left guard. He closed out his career after participating in a total of 2,765 snaps, the eighth-highest in school history. His 987 offensive snaps in 2012 rank second-best in a season by an offensive tackle, topped by Landon Walker (1,033 in 2011). His 865 plays in 2012 are sixth-highest in a season for a Tigers offensive tackle.
Body StructureThomas is a long-limbed athlete with wide hips, big bubble, thick thighs and calves, low body fat and broad shoulders. He is well-proportioned with big bones and the frame to carry at least another twenty pounds of bulk. He has good upper body thickness and strong, fluid hips. He a bit barrel-chested, but has above average reach (34 1/2-inch arms and 83 5/8-inch wing span).
Athletic AbilityThomas plays with good balance. He has the foot quickness and knee bend to easily mirror and slide to challenge edge rushers, along with good overall flexibility. He runs with a normal stride, displaying the ability to adjust in space. He is a power-oriented blocker who has developed an aggressive nature. He is smooth and sudden coming out of his stance and has above average lateral range. He maintains balance on the move, especially when having to redirect and recover working in-line. He has a nice, low pad level, coming out of his stance with good explosion on the rise, showing the change of direction agility to easily redirect, work in-line or get out in front to stalk second level defenders. He shows excellent straight-line speed (recently timed at 5.09 seconds in the 40-yard dash), but there will be concerns whether he can keep that quickness after he recovers from his right knee surgery.
Football SenseThomas shows very good field vision and is alert to stunts and games. He communicates well with his fellow blockers, especially on combo blocks. He has no problems taking plays from the chalkboard to the playing field. The coaches say he is mentally sharp and a very quick learner. Thomas is smart enough to swing inside to guard without needing extra reps to adjust. He has become a vocal leader and is the type that will put in the extra hours in the film room, weight room and after practices, if it will help him improve his skill-set.
CompetitivenessThomas is highly competitive and will play until the whistle. He had a nasty streak this year (2013) that helped him round out his game, as it is obvious that he plays with high intensity (see 2013 Georgia, Wake Forest and Virginia games). He takes pride in his play and loves to answer the challenge up front. He comes off the ball hard and looks very aggressive upon making contact. He works to finish and will do whatever it takes to engage the defender with force. Thomas has very good lower body strength, thanks to putting in the extra hours in the weight room. He's a leverage-type of blocker who needs little structure, as he takes well to hard coaching. He takes care of business in practice and in the off-season training program and has never missed a workout. Throw him into the fire as a starter in the NFL and he will do whatever is needed to succeed.
Initial QuicknessThomas comes out of his stance with good suddenness to gain advantage at the snap. He has that quick first step to instantly gain position on the defender (see 2013 Georgia, Wake Forest, Virginia and Georgia Tech games). He shows good aggression at the snap, doing a nice job when reaching and sealing a five-tech, as he flashes the ability to cut off the back side. He also shows very good explosion off the snap, getting into the defender with force. He plays with proper knee bend and a flat back to unwind out of his stance with ease. He is one of the quicker offensive linemen in the collegiate ranks, doing an excellent job of getting out of his stance quickly with hands up to establish his position on both drive blocks and in pass protection.
Lateral MovementThis is one of his better assets, and a reason scouts project that he can make a smooth transition to an interior line position at the next level. Thomas shows above average ability to mirror and slide. He does an excellent job of redirecting and while he can get a little sloppy with his blocking angles upon departure, he plays with good leverage to neutralize the defender. The thing you see on film is his ability to stay square in his base and move laterally with good footwork and agility. He can slide from side to side with very good ease-of-movement agility and his timed speed shows he has the ability to get out and confront defenders working in space.
Balance/Stays On FeetThomas plays with a solid base and balance. With those assets, it is rare to see him get moved off his anchor. He has the ability to sustain blocks, thanks to his foot quickness as he also uses those feet to easily mirror. He is more than just a position-and-wall-off blocker, as he does a nice job of swinging his hips and running his feet to finish those blocks. The thing you immediately notice about this player is his ability to play over his feet. He is rarely on the ground, doing a solid job of using his hands to tie up his opponent, as he is a highly effective grabber. He keeps his feet moving and shows valid athletic ability to adjust when he might get overextended. One of the things you always see on film is his ability to stay in front of the defender.
Explosion/PopThomas generates good explosion and pop on contact. He has that fluid hip roll and lower-body strength to generate a good push off the snap. Even when he does not get enough movement, he is savvy enough to deliver a blow and drop a linebacker with a vicious forearm blast (see 2013 Wake Forest, Syracuse and The Citadel games). He can easily roll his hips, which allows him to generate explosion on contact. He is a very physical striker on the move, doing a nice job of adjusting to recover when beaten. He is the type that combines raw strength with quickness (recorded 35 reps in the 225-pound bench press and was timed at 5.09 in the 40-yard dash). You have to be impressed with his sudden force application, as he consistently gets impact with good pop and surge. When he uses his hands as weapons, more often than not, he with knock back the defender's head or take his man off his feet.
Run BlockingThomas walls and positions mostly, as he does not have that massive bulk to blow up defenders in attempts to get movement on drive blocks. Still, his balance and body control really stand out on film (see 2013 Georgia Tech, Virginia and Wake Forest games). He takes good angles to screen and wall off and gains good movement upon contact. He also shows the ability to be an effective cut and reach blocker when he plays with alertness (as a sophomore, he was sometimes hesitant, making him look slow to engage, but was much more decisive since the beginning of 2012). He will need to add more bulk in order to gain leverage at the point of attack in the NFL, but his frame can easily handle the additional weight. If you are looking for brute strength and mass at the offensive tackle position, Thomas might not be that fit, but if you want a nimble blocker who plays with aggression on contact, drives his legs and gives total effort, he will be a nice fit as an offensive guard. You can see he has the ability to develop into an effective flat-back drive blocker, as he gets good movement at the point of attack. Once he gets a fit, he sustains it well.
Pass BlockingThomas has made the most improvement in this area from his sophomore year to his senior campaign. He is a classic knee bender who is effective generating anchor to slide and protect the back side. He shows good patience working on the edge, letting the rusher come to him rather than lunge and over-extend. He has a good concept for angling and can redirect well. His ability to recover in his pass set is superior to most offensive tackles. He shows good ability to sink his hips. In the past, he would get a little inconsistent with his punch (takes lazy sets), but as a junior, he got to the collision point very effectively. He also shows above average shuffle and is exceptionally fluid on the move (see 2013 Georgia, Syracuse, The Citadel and Ohio State games). He has very good strength to anchor and the loose hips needed to slide laterally. There were times where he would get "out-quicked" on the edge,, but he was quick to recover and keeps his head on a swivel to locate stunts.
Pulling/TrappingThomas shows good snap out of his stance to pull down the line of scrimmage (see 2013 Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina games). He has that quick initial burst to gain advantage and the ability to make contact and drive the defender off the ball. He adjusts effectively on the move and does a nice job of landing on second level targets. He also has the quick feet needed to lock out and get in front on pulls. He has the lateral range to unwind out of his stance with ease to clear the rush lanes. He is a contact seeker in the truest sense, as he is always looking for targets to hit on the move and does an above average job when having to kick out or seal.
Adjust on Linebacker DownfieldThomas has good ability to get into the second level. He shows above average athletic agility and balance to adjust in space. He takes good angles on the move, doing a nice job of adjusting and attacking to cut or fit up while staying in control. He is quick to chip and land on his targets when working in the second level. His ability to redirect and suddenly change direction makes him dominate at the collision point (see 2013 Wake Forest and Virginia games). With his foot speed, he has no problem chipping and landing when encountering faster defenders and he has the natural hip snap, knee bend, natural strength and feet to break down and adjust in the open field.
Use of Hands/PunchThomas has become much more comfortable with his hand placement and usage. In the past, he would get lazy with his hands or get them out of his frame, which let defenders lock on and control. Now, he flashes a good punch in his pass set, but must be more alert to his over-extension problems in the past (no problem at all in 2013, though – see Wake Forest, Syracuse and Georgia Tech games). He has developed the strong punch and lock-out ability (one of the top offensive line performers at the 2014 NFL Combine with 35 reps in the 225-pound bench press test), but can still use more refinement. He has enough quickness to recoil and recover inside and brings his hands up properly to shock and jolt, especially when on the move. When he utilizes those long arms to get extension, he keeps consistent separation thanks to his strength and good feet.
Reactions/AwarenessEarlier in his career, Thomas played with some hesitation at times, especially when he missed the early counter moves. Now, he is no longer slow to engage the defender, as he worked hard to keep his hands inside his frame and as a junior, he seemed to always get his man. The thing you notice in 2012-13 film viewing is that he is much more capable with his slide agility. He plays with very good balance and patience this season, showing better confidence in his change of direction agility and lateral quickness to mirror his defender. You can see on film (see 2012 Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Duke games; 2013 North Carolina State, Maryland and Ohio State contests) that he is much more alert adjusting to stunts and has that ability to almost instantly redirect and recover.
Compares ToANDY LEVITRE-Tennessee: Like Levitre, Thomas's blocking skills are the result of his foot speed and suddenness off the snap. Also like Levitre, the collegiate offensive tackle is much more coveted as an offensive guard prospect by NFL teams. His athletic skills were always evident, but with his body filling out and maturing, he has developed very good power to go with his savvy and explosiveness. With his success in communicating with his other blockers, he is an ideal fit for an NFL team at left offensive guard, but teams will be hesitant to draft him in the first half of the draft, unless he can provide a positive prognosis to ease teams' minds in regards to his recent knee injury.
Thomas has outstanding quickness and explosion off the ball. His quick first step allows him to gain leverage on the defender. His good power base lets him generate the push needed to lock on and control his man, especially since he has shown much better confidence in his hand placement as a senior. He has the ability to explode into the defender on contact, thanks to his fluid hip roll when attempting to drive the defender out of the hole.
The Clemson prospect might not maul and overpower the bigger defenders, but his hand quickness and lateral agility is evident in his kick slide when trying to mirror. He is quick and aggressive, flashing enough pop on contact to shock and jolt. He plays on his feet and is very good at taking angles to work into the second level. You can see on the pull that he has the balance and ability to adjust in space.
Once he makes contact, Thomas is able to run through and finish coming off the block. In pass protection, he is light on his feet and keeps his hands placed well when attempting to wall off. He does a nice job of "closing the gate" and making the edge rusher work hard and take a wide loop when trying to come from the back side. He showed the last two years that he can get his hands up quickly and his improved upper body strength allowed him to control his man much better than he did as a junior.
Thomas' emergence in 2012 was due to his ability to punch, replace and recoil his hands. His punch is now strong enough for him to control the defender. He has the loose hips to recover quickly vs. the counter move and plays with very good awareness, especially when picking up twists and stunts.
The senior has also greatly improved his anchor ability, evident by the way he has held his ground vs. the power rush in 2013. Overall, he is an emerging talent who has a high ceiling, but would be more coveted as an offensive guard, rather than being isolated as a left tackle. With patient coaching, some NFL team will solve their left guard problem once this talented athlete recovers from knee issues.
Dave-Te' Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. With the NFL Draft Report, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft.