J.T. Thomas, Linebacker
Height: 6-2 Weight: 225 College: West Suburban
What they say about Thomas
Thomas' career nearly ended the way it began -- accompanied by injury. Two games into his true freshman season, a lingering ankle sprain earned him a medical redshirt. Then, during summer camp before his senior year, he succumbed to a minor neck ailment. But Thomas came back quickly to earn first-team All-Big East accolades this fall, making 73 tackles, seven for loss, 2.5 sacks, four pass break-ups and two forced fumbles.
In between his first and final seasons, Thomas played in all but three games, bringing home multiple team honors for his hard work and high effort during practice and on Saturdays. He started all 13 games for the Mountaineers as a junior, racking up 76 tackles and seven passes defended. Those marks helped him earn coaches' vote on their all-conference first team.
The productive linebacker has his work cut out for him to become an NFL starter. He's an intense player with natural athleticism but his lack of size and marginal instincts make a him a mid-to-late round prospect likely forced to settle for a special teams role, at least early in his career.
Positives: A high-motor, full-effort linebacker who will throw himself into contact with reckless abandon. Flies around the field and uses above-average athleticism to recover from mistakes and track down ball carriers from the backside. Takes smart angles to the football and wraps up on contact, making sure tackles to prevent additional yards after the catch. Is relentless fighting off blocks and never gives up on a play. Has some natural fluidity and smoothness in his hips and possesses above-average straight-line speed. Shows the ability to sidestep blockers and can get upfield in a hurry when asked to rush the passer.
Negatives: Has loads of experience, but has not honed his instincts through extended playing time. Often misdiagnoses plays and flies up to defend the run on play-action passes. Will get caught peeking into the backfield or incorrectly anticipating routes. Loses control and has a habit of running himself out of the play while looking for the highlight hit. Is undersized and does not possess the frame to add weight without sacrificing speed. Can be washed at the point of attack by stronger blockers and often allows offensive linemen into his frame. Gets lost in zone coverage consistently and guesses all too often instead of making reads and watching runpass keys. Has a slight injury history and violent style of play will only lead to more ailments at his current build.
Pro Football Weekly
Notes: Prepped in Florida before redshirting in 2006 was bothered by an ankle sprain, though did earn Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year recognition. Arrested in August 07 for transferring and receiving stolen property (laptop), although charges were dropped upon completion of a diversion program. A reserve in the fall, tallied 19 tackles, three for loss and zero sacks in 10 games. Started all 39 games at weak-side linebacker his final three seasons totaled 65-10-3 with three pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick in 08; tallied 76-7- with five pass breakups and two interceptions in 09; had 73-7-2 with four pass breakups and two forced fumbles in 10. Dealt with neck pain during 10 spring practice and fall camp. Team captain.
Positives: Good speed, athletic ability and hip flexibility. Nice agility to slip and avoid blocks. Chases hard and ranges to the sideline. Good coverage instincts blankets a lot of ground. Tough, blue-collar worker who will play hurt. Vocal on-field leader. Durable, three-year starter with special-teams experience. Good work ethic.
Negatives: Has very short arms and marginal take-on strength. Lacks bulk strength and struggles to provide resistance against the run engulfed by larger blockers. Not explosive. Average change of direction and closing burst. Recorded only a 30-inch vertical jump, the lowest of any outside linebacker at the Combine. Character needs to be evaluated.
Summary: Average-sized, athletic, run-and-hit weak-side linebacker who would be best protected and free to roam in a fast-flowing 40 front. Will have to prove his worth on special teams.
NFL projection: Priority free agent.