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Solomon Thomas is the 2017 NFL draft’s most frustrating prospect

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Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White takes a closer look at the Stanford pass rusher and sees a player who isn’t living up to his potential.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Stanford Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Solomon Thomas is the most frustrating prospect I’ve broken down in four years of doing this for SB Nation. There's not just one thing that is frustrating about him. There are a multitude of things.

Where’s the effort?

First, he runs hot and cold with his effort. Part of that is reflected in how Thomas doesn't always finish plays. Y'all already know how I feel about guys who don't finish.

I swear this guy has some of the most embarrassing lack-of-effort plays that I've ever seen. It would be different if he was getting Aaron Donald-type production, but you can't be walking on the film like this when you only have 4.5 sacks and two pressures in five games, Solomon Christopher Thomas.

Oh hell nawl, that just won't do!

When hand size does matter

Another thing that is irritating about watching Thomas' film is that he actually should have had more than just 4.5 sacks and two pressures in five games. He was damn sure in position to notch more than that.

But, this guy would seemingly find new ways to leave plays on the field in each game that I watched.

He would whiff when trying to tackle the quarterback after cleanly beating the offensive lineman, sometimes more than one, with a good move.

He would have his hands on the quarterback and his hands were either too small or too weak to hang on.

After my first watch of Thomas' tape, about three games in, I texted a friend of mine and said that either Thomas' hands are small or he has a very weak handshake because whether it was missing sacks because the quarterback would break free of his clutches or missing tackles on running backs who did the same.

There were just several times where Thomas got his hands on the guy with the ball but couldn't bring them to the ground.

Some of those missed tackles would have been big plays, sacks, tackles for a loss, or tackles to prevent a third down conversion.

I went back to look at Thomas' hand measurements after watching his tape to see if I was right about them being small. Wouldn't you know it, his hands measured in at 9 and 3/8 inches. For context, that would have placed him in the bottom 10 of the 59 defensive linemen at the combine.

This is one of those times where it actually showed up on tape.

A gifted athlete, but ...

My third issue with watching Thomas' tape is that as I was looking for his hand size I happened to notice the rest of Thomas' measurables from the combine.

He is 6'2.5 tall, 273 pounds — similar measurements to Jonathan Allen, Myles Garrett, and Derrick Barnett. Here's where it gets interesting.

Thomas ran a 4.71 in the 40 at the combine.

He had 30 reps on the bench.

Thomas jumped 35 inches in the air for his vertical.

His broad jump was 10.6 feet.

He turned in a three-cone time of 6.98 seconds.

His short shuttle was a smoking 4.28 seconds, a top-four time among the defensive line group at the combine.

This dude is physically gifted, and he checks off the boxes in just about every category you could want when it comes to measurables. Maybe you might want him to be just a tad bit taller, but hell, that would be nitpicking.

Thomas' combination of size and athletic ability means that he should have a lot of position versatility as well as scheme versatility. He played anywhere from zero nose to a wide five on the left side in the tape that I watched, and he flashed at damn near every possible spot.

But man, to be so talented and physically gifted, I would expect a lot more than just flashing now and then. Unfortunately, Thomas evidently doesn't give a fuck about my feelings on the subject.

Let me say this, though — some of Thomas’ flashes are fantastic!

I could make you a reel with just his highlights and have you convinced that he should be the top pick overall.

That's just how impressive some of his better plays are.

But his bad plays ...

Plays with the shitty effort ...

Plays when he misses the tackle ...

Plays when he shuts it down while being in position to perhaps still make a play ...

Plays where he gets pancaked ...

Those plays make you wonder if he's going to be a bust or not.

The talent is there! But the effort, man ...

Even Chris Jones last year, who wasn't nearly as athletically gifted, might've been a little lazy, but not this lazy. That's definitely not a compliment.

I write my notes freehand while I watch tape, but I wrote in all caps “BUT WHAT A SHITTY FINISH FFS at the end of saying he did a good job initially on this play.

Point. To. The. Lie.

He was literally walking while the play was going on. That kinda shit just drives me up a damn wall. Let me say again: Thomas ain't that good to be able to loaf that much, great combine performance or not.

That kind of a lack of effort from anybody is appalling to me and probably to anybody who ever played for Larry Lacewell, Larry Marmie, John Chavis, or Rod Marinelli. But it’s especially galling coming from a guy like Thomas because you can find other plays where he is hauling ass.

That shows Thomas knows what kind of effort he is supposed to give on every play; he just doesn't do it.

Where was this kinda effort consistently?!

When his motor runs hot, Thomas can make plays damn near anywhere on the field. It’s just that he has way too many cold spells. He is gonna have to fix that shit.

The flip side, if you are a GM or front office type, is that the guy is immensely talented. If the light bulb every comes on and stays on.

Man, listen, I watched this dude run slap over guards while stunting inside.

I saw him spin around people.

I saw him knock one m’fer into another m’fer with another m’fer.

If he just learned to escape off a block on the edge, he might've had like four or five more sacks off that alone.

Instead, he frequently stayed stuck to those blocks, and gave up containment far too often.

To be an edge player in the NFL, he will have to correct that. But it should be an easy thing to fix/teach. Key word, should. After a guy gets into the league, nothing is for certain.

However, he’s better as an inside player, anyway. If you can get him to be productive on the edge, too, that's just the cherry on top.

But there is that word if” again.

Thomas shows repeatedly that he at least knows how to defeat blockers both inside and out, against the run and against the pass. He’s a physical specimen with a decent level of technique. It’s going to come down to whether teams think he will fix his effort issues on the next level, and, since his hands aren't likely to grow any more at this point, if he can get his hands stronger.

If he can do at least one of those things, Thomas could be a Pro Bowler three years from now. If he can do both of those things, I wouldn't be surprised at all if he was in the DPOY conversation three years from now.

But if he can't ... that is the question that GMs are going to have to wrestle with. How high is too high for a guy with this level of boom or bust?

I guess we will all find out on April 27. I hope for his sake that Thomas makes the most of his opportunity. The sky is the limit for him if he does.

Thomas' effort will irritate some defensive line coaches. There will always be others who see the kind of talent Thomas displayed in college, and fantasize about the kind of pass rushing monster they can turn him into if they just "fix" his effort issues. They pound the table for the team to take him. That doesn't always work out so well.

I'm just sayin’.

Since I don't have access to all-22 for college football games, I use the next best thing for my draft profiles and go to Draft Breakdown where they the TV copy of a bunch of top prospects' already cut up and ready to go. Also, their site is compatible with the new NoHuddle app which turns your cell phone into a "cowboy clicker," which is pretty damn neat. For the purposes of this breakdown, I watched Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas against UCLA, Washington, Arizona, Oregon State, and North Carolina. Those represented the third, fourth, eighth, ninth, and 13th games on Stanford's schedule last season, respectively.