Every year, a prospect appears from under-the-radar as one of the best pass rushers in the class. Could Oklahoma defensive end Isaiah Thomas be that player in the 2022 NFL Draft? The versatile defensive lineman has had an explosive start to the season, and his scouting report is littered with the traits of a high-profile pass rusher.
Isaiah Thomas NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Defensive End
- School: Oklahoma
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’5″
- Weight: 267 pounds
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Isaiah Thomas Scouting Report
While Oklahoma has become a pipeline to the NFL for quarterbacks and offensive line talent, the Sooners have also produced several high-profile defensive line prospects. Although teammates Nik Bonitto and Perrion Winfrey have earned first-round attention in the 2022 NFL Draft class, Thomas has not. Until now.
Thomas’ scouting report reveals that the redshirt senior defensive end is brimming with NFL Draft potential.
First of all, he’s highly versatile. The 6’5″, 267-pound defensive lineman has aligned at both tackle and end for Oklahoma. It’s not simply a case of him aligning there, however. Thomas has shown he can excel from any alignment on the defensive line.
It’s immediately apparent on his tape that Thomas possesses incredible explosion at the line of scrimmage. He routinely explodes off the snap, beating offensive linemen with an impressive first step. Before the offense knows what hit them, the Oklahoma defensive end is in the backfield.
Thomas wins with more than just explosion, though. He’s got ferociously fast hands that work to eliminate blocks with both speed and power. As a result, he can disengage quickly from blockers, allowing him to penetrate gaps. When aligned internally, the Oklahoma defensive end uses this ability to scrape across the offensive line to make plays against the run on the edge. His size and length are also important in this regard.
As a pass rusher, Thomas has several weapons at his disposal. He displays a potent bull rush, a disruptive push-pull technique, and swim moves to make his way to the quarterback in the games studied. There are also flashes of bend to his play where he ghosts underneath the offensive tackle.
Areas for improvement
While Thomas’ scouting report reveals all the characteristics of a powerful NFL pass rusher, there are areas for concern and improvement for the Oklahoma DE.
He will need to demonstrate he can execute more efficiently this season. Before anyone gets carried away, this isn’t a botched reference a la Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. While Thomas has repeatedly shown that he can win at the point of attack, he needs to ensure that he converts those plays into actual production.
That was especially apparent in last year’s Red River Showdown with Texas. There were multiple plays where Thomas beat his man, got within an arm’s length of Texas QB Sam Ehlinger, but couldn’t impact the play in time.
Thomas also needs to ensure he keeps his balance, especially when coming off the edge. There were several examples of him slipping as he attempted to make a play and ended up on the ground rather than the ball carrier.
Finally, a red flag relates to a reported larceny charge and subsequent failure to appear in court arrest. Without knowing the exact details, teams will want to do their due diligence on what would appear to be an out-of-character issue.
Isaiah Thomas’ Player Profile
Memorial High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, doesn’t have a reputation for developing football excellence. The school’s sporting success has emanated from the basketball court, producing multiple state champions. While basketball has a place in Thomas’ sporting career (he was a part of the 2017 Class 5A State Championship-winning team), the Oklahoma DE is Memorial’s football success story.
Thomas had the opportunity to elevate his status before his senior season. Having received multiple college offers and committed early to Oklahoma, the four-star defensive end could have transferred to Jenks or Union, more traditional titans of the Tulsa high school football landscape. However, loyalty mattered to the young defensive playmaker, and he became a US Army All-American while wearing Memorial colors.
While the rest of the football world was yet to discover it, those inside his high school program knew a prestigious talent was in their midst. Brian Worrell, an assistant at Memorial, stated:
“He just kind of had a presence about him. We knew he was going to be special.”
Thomas’ career at Oklahoma
Special was precisely the word that Thomas used to describe his decision to commit to Oklahoma.
“It’s special for them to be a school in my home state,” he said at the time of his commitment. “No school compares to OU and what they bring to the table. It’s more than just a team, it’s a family.”
During his first years with the program, Thomas’ opportunity to prove how special he could be was limited. Coming into Oklahoma at 6’5″ and 225 pounds, Thomas needed time to bulk up and adjust to the rigors of college football. He redshirted the 2017 season, and although he saw action in some of the biggest games of 2018, his impact was barely noticeable.
Even in 2019, Thomas’ contributions to the Sooners were slight. Playing in 11 of 14 games, he tallied just 7 tackles. However, he did secure his first career sack against UCLA before adding another in the Big 12 Championship win over Baylor.
Just like in his high school career, Thomas could have made a move to enhance his reputation. The lack of playing time tested his loyalty. Nevertheless, he held firm, worked hard, and in the 2020 college football season, he was rewarded.
Thomas exploded into the national conscience last season
Starting all 11 games for the Sooners, Thomas made his presence felt from both the defensive tackle and defensive end position. Having registered just 2 career sacks before the season, he surpassed that in one game against Baylor.
In 2020, the Oklahoma defensive end tallied 32 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, and 8 quarterback hurries, earning second-team All-Big 12 recognition from coaches and media. His disruptive ability went beyond the box score, with pressure from Thomas often resulting in sacks for teammates like Bonitto and Ronnie Perkins.
With 7 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in the season’s final six games, Thomas rode a wave of momentum into the 2021 college football season. He has registered 6 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 tackle for loss through the first two games. While there had been 2022 NFL Draft attention heaped on Bonitto, Thomas had somehow slipped under the radar through summer scouting.
Not anymore. Thomas is firmly in the 2022 NFL Draft spotlight and is ready to prove that he is one of the top defensive end prospects in the class.