Chase Thomas has had an impressive career as a four year contributor for the Stanford Cardinal. He was part of a recruiting class that won 43 games during their run in Palo Alto. Thomas was able to collect 51 tackles for loss and 27 sacks during his career and was a focal point of the Stanford defense the past two years. Thomas fits the profile of the intelligent, tough, hard-nosed player the Stanford football program has come to known for under Head Coaches Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw.
Chase Thomas demonstrates the ability to be a contributor against the run as well as the pass. In addition, Thomas’s versatility stands out and he could contribute at a number of different positions including an inside linebacker or outside linebacker in the 3-4 or a strong side linebacker or even a defensive end in the 4-3. He demonstrated he has the intelligence to learn and contribute in multiple positions throughout a game and the season for a team and could allow a team to save roster space with a player like Thomas.
Thomas has demonstrated a wide array of pass rushing moves including a bull rush, push pull move, spin, swim, outside speed rush, and even just stacking and shedding. He has the technique to be successful in the NFL and one physical attribute that Thomas does consistently demonstrate is quick hands. Thomas is also a savvy blitzer who does a good job disguising his intent and lulling his opponent to sleep occasionally before coming up field unblocked.
Thomas flashes the ability to be an effective strong side linebacker in the NFL, holding up at the point of attack against blocks and causing stalemates. There are even examples of him taking on a block, shedding it, locating the ball carrier and making the stop just how a coach would draw it up.
With Thomas, it is all about consistency in terms of technique and effort. He will flash well on one play, stacking and shedding a blocker and making a tackle but then turns around and washed out by a tight end and give up on the play the next. While he has an array of pass rush moves, he tends to struggle against decent offensive tackles. His tendency is either to win at the initial point of contact or be engulfed. Most of his production seems to come against tight ends or when he is unblocked entirely due to the scheme yet teams were not afraid to stay with their scheme and continue to isolate their tight end on Thomas, who had a frustrating amount of success against him.
He needs to improve physically, so he can take advantage of his technique more often. He has decent speed when he builds up a head of steam, but he his agility and closing speed is a problem when it comes to breaking down and making plays, especially against athletic quarterbacks. Not only does he need to add strength, but he needs to lose some fat so he can get lighter on his feet and smoother as an athlete. If he can improve in those areas, those technical skills he has will become increasingly effective.
As a tackler, Thomas will lunge too much resulting in some whiffed tackles in situations where he should simply continue running to get in position to make a better attempt at the tackle. He also fails to close the deal at times being shed too often considering his size for the college game. His lack of lateral agility can get him exposed in the open field and he has a tendency to play too high which only serves to worsen the problem by hurting his balance. For someone with as much experience as Thomas, it reeks of someone who should know better and is not giving a consistent enough effort from play to play. If he is unable to correct this issue, teams will be unable to count on him.
Thomas’s experience dropping into coverage is limited and he looks uncomfortable doing it. He will never be a player that can be counted on in man coverage of any kind, but he could work to be able to drop into zone coverage at least if he can improve his backpedal and speed to his drops. At this point, Thomas’s game is all about coming forward and attacking the line of scrimmage.
The versatility, intelligence, and brand of toughness coming from the Stanford program combined with his production will get him drafted into the NFL, but probably not until the fourth or fifth round. Thomas has the potential to be an effective player in the NFL, but it will take time both for him to improve physically and as he decides if he can give consistent technique. He is most likely going to start out as depth for a team and have to work his way up, but he could be a guy who gets by on sheer will and could stick around in the NFL and develop purely on that level of grit he offers. He will never look pretty but has a knack for making plays throughout his career. His versatility and skill set are reminiscent of Chris Gocong, who has played at a number of different positions and schemes throughout his career.