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NAME: Cameron Thomas
POSITION: Defensive Lineman
SCHOOL: San Diego State
WEIGHT: 270 pounds
A native of Carlsbad, California, Cameron Thomas attended Carlsbad High School. He played a significant amount of snaps during three years of his high school football career. During the final two years of Thomas’ high school football career, he recorded 88 tackles, 9.5 sacks, five tackles for loss, one pass deflection and one fumble recovery. He was also a tight end on offense. He finished with 22 receptions, 294 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Thomas was rated as a three-star recruit by 247Sports. Ultimately, he chose to play college football at San Diego State over other offers like Oregon State, Navy and Wyoming.
Before he really got going on the Aztecs’ defense, Thomas redshirted during the 2018 season. He did appear in the team’s bowl game after the season. However, only appearing in one game allowed Thomas to keep his redshirt season intact.
Best In The West
Once Cameron Thomas was able to assume a starting role, he quickly rose up the Mountain West conference ranks. He started 12 games and appeared in all 13 contests in 2019. While moving around the San Diego State defensive line, Thomas registered 49 tackles, 13 quarterback hurries, nine tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and two pass breakups. He took home two team awards at the end of the season. This included being named San Diego State Co-Outstanding Freshman and San Diego State Defensive Lineman of the Year. Finally, he received first-team All-Mountain West honors for 2019 as well.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, San Diego State’s 2020 season was limited. This held Thomas to just eight starts on the season. Nevertheless, he remained to be one of the best defenders in the conference. He totaled 35 tackles (21 solo), 14 quarterback hurries, 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. Furthermore, Thomas registered 37 quarterback pressures that season. This ranked second in the entire FBS for 2020 among interior defensive linemen (Alabama’s Christian Barmore ranked first). He received first-team All-Mountain West honors for the second consecutive season.
Best In The Conference
2021 not only saw Thomas have another strong season, but it was also an immense amount of team success for the defender to go out on. San Diego State finished the season 12-2 and went 7-1 in conference games. They would finish first in the conference’s West division. Numerous times, the Aztecs came through in close finishes. They would ultimately lose the Mountain West Conference Championship Game to Utah State. Yet, they came back with a Frisco Bowl victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.
As for Thomas, he recorded single season career highs in categories like tackles (71), tackles for loss (20.5) and sacks (10.5). He also had a forced fumble against Nevada. For the third straight season, Thomas earned a first-team All-Mountain West selection. He was also named Defensive Player of the Year for the Mountain West Conference. Lastly, the Associated Press named him as a second-team All-American.
Instead of listing positives and negatives for traits, this year we will be listing the best trait of each prospect and work our way down to the biggest area of improvement/absent trait(s), from top to bottom.
When rushing the passer, Thomas presents a wide array of pass rush moves. There is a tremendous combination of quickness and power within his arsenal when it comes to his hands. Thomas primarily utilizes a swim move or a club and rip move to beat opposing blockers. His bull rush is quite sufficient as well. This is due to his aforementioned hand power and explosive get off. Occasionally, Thomas will throw in a spin move. This is not something that he appears to be as comfortable with, however.
Overall, his hand technique is one of the more refined in this draft class. Thomas executes his strike with ample force. At the same time, his ability to win first contact so often and his hand placement usually overwhelms blockers.
First Step Explosiveness
For his size, Thomas is extremely athletic. He displays short area burst and covers plenty of ground rather quickly. This is due to his larger, longer strides. When it comes to the snap of the football, Thomas can often beat the opposing blocker and get around them, before they are even out of their stance. One on one blocks were rarely a match for him within the Mountain West. There were also plenty of times where the defender was able to find a second gear on plays that became elongated. Moreover, that could come in handy during the early part of his NFL career.
Most people will focus on his results and technique in this area. While that should receive great attention too, it is the instincts of Thomas that pop here. The San Diego State product is quick to recognize where the ball is going. This is especially true, when opposing offenses implement a mesh point with an RPO type of setup.
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As for his technique, Thomas shined with how often he was able to collapse and squeeze through tight spaces or gaps. He routinely sets a firm edge and holds contain. On the other hand, his ability to crash towards the inside shoulder of blockers can muddy up the backfield. Thomas also brings a tackling form and strike zone that is well-rounded.
Thomas’ ability to read opposing offensive fronts stood out throughout his entire college career. As alluded to earlier, he has a great understanding of play flow and play direction that the offense is attempting to use. Thomas is adequate when it comes to body positioning and maintaining landmarks on the field. For example, he does not get too far up the field when playing the run. This defender is also rather patient in waiting for the blocker to make the first bite if he needs to, so to speak. His tricks and nuances may not be flashy. It gets the job done, nonetheless.
Thomas provides sufficient length at the point of attack. Coaches will enjoy that he does not waste time or movements when battling opposing offensive linemen. For instance, Thomas is urgent in getting his arms fully extended and using his length to his advantage. Along with his power, this can make him difficult to corral upfront.
There are other moments where Thomas makes a difference for his team, though it may not look very extravagant. He can still often reach opposing ball carriers with one arm to help slow them down, while the other half of his body is being blocked. This allows his defensive teammates to come in and clean up or finish the job.
San Diego State lined him up all over the defensive line. Generally, he saw time as a base defensive end. That is likely where he is best suited for during the majority of his NFL career. Possibly, Thomas could collapse and reduce to playing inside on occasion. That could be slim, because of his lack of a consistent anchor ability. Thomas seemed to do his most damage out of either a four-point stance or a two-point stance. Largely, his athleticism and burst stood out more when getting free releases off of a two-point stance.
This player’s change of direction skills are not the worst in the world. Yet, it is likely not quick enough to make consistent stops in space. Being able to regain his footing can sometimes be an issue. Or, Thomas will lose his balance and get to leaning too far on top of his toes. There is also a worry of being able to take proper angles from time to time.
Like his change of direction skills, Thomas does not have the worst bend in the world. Though, he is not elite in that area, when rushing the passer around the corner. He will not be someone who is known as a flashy player when rushing the passer. Rather, Thomas wins most of his reps with a hot motor, effort and being able to crash into the backfield hard with a lot of force. Whichever team drafts him will have to improve his pad level upon his early transition into his rookie season. It is much too high, especially when it comes to being asked to make plays in space.
Sometimes, NFL teams are inconsistent to recognize consistent production among defensive linemen. That is just what the Kansas City Chiefs need more of entering 2022. Kansas City ranked 29th in sacks and 31st in in yards per carry allowed in 2021. Simply, that is not good enough when it comes to production.
With Frank Clark possibly being let go soon, an early selection may be needed on the defensive line during the 2022 NFL Draft. Cameron Thomas possesses many suitable attributes for a defense like Steve Spagnuolo‘s. His length, power at the point of attack, heavy hands and short area quickness are exceptional starting points. He not only has the consistent production. But, Thomas just slips off of blocks so smoothly and has many moves that he can use to get that done.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs draft prospect profiles throughout this spring. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.
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