The 2022 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and the Atlanta Falcons have quickly become one of the most intriguing teams to watch in this year’s event. There are a number of ways the Falcons can go with their No. 8 overall pick, and they’ve got five of the top 82 picks in this draft.
In the lead-up to this important draft for Atlanta, we’re going to be providing our evaluations of some of the top prospects. For those unfamiliar with our process, we’re using Kevin Knight’s own grading system, which you can read about here. This system is still in development and minor tweaks may be made as more data is available.
Today’s prospect is San Diego State defensive end Cameron Thomas. While not as well known as some of the top edge players in this class, Thomas has a lot of the qualities that NFL teams covet. He’s got the strength to hold up on multiple spots along the defensive line, and a good array of pass-rush moves that he precisely executes.
DE | Cameron Thomas | San Diego St. | #99
Games watched: San Jose St., Utah St., UTSA, Utah
Cameron Thomas is one of the draft’s more interesting players. He plays with a high level of urgency as a rusher and possesses multiple pass rush moves that he deploys with regularity. Thomas can win on the inside with quickness, and that is where he best projects at the next level. As a 3-4 defensive end, Thomas will need to add power to anchor against the run, but he could develop into a reliable interior rusher.
There will undoubtedly be questions about the level of competition Thomas faced at San Diego State University, but he performed well against Power 5 teams throughout his career. He consistently faced double and even triple teams, and yet he still produced at a very high level. Thomas’s 11.5 sacks as a junior placed him in the company of other top pass rushers like Jermaine Johnson (11.5) and David Ojabo (11).
Versatility is a staple of Thomas’s game, and he should continue to move around in the NFL. With added strength and size, Thomas has the pass-rush skills to operate as an exterior end on early downs and an interior rusher on passing downs. Thomas is not a space player, especially not in the NFL, but he will be an energetic technician who can move a quarterback off his spot and become a headache for opposing linemen.
Not a speed player, but he’s got plenty of burst within 10 yards. Excellent snap timing and gets off the ball with urgency. Won’t be a threat around the arc at the next level, but he has enough explosiveness to win on the interior.
Flexibility/Lateral Mobility: 6
Looks like a power end, but he’s got surprising agility in small spaces. Knives between interior linemen with ease. Good on stunts and slants.
Hand Technique: 7
Excellent hand usage and variety of moves. Has a counterplan ready for opposing offensive linemen. Savvy swim and rip moves to get clean. Throws his hands first and rapidly. Possesses a good swim move that he mixes in.
Has good height for the position but doesn’t have the accompanying length. Offensive linemen can get into his body.
Good power for a defensive end in college. Will need to add mass to hold up as a 3-4 end in the NFL. Presents a problem when converting speed to power as a rusher.
Competitive Toughness: 8
Outstanding competitor. Plays through the whistle and does not take any plays off. Will attempt to chase plays down from behind. Makes plays when his team needs it most.
Football IQ: 7
Knows what he wants to do on every play. Understands and plays his assignments well. Keeps his eyes on the quarterback when rushing. Quick to diagnose screens and play fakes.
Great multi-year production from Thomas. Capped off his three-year career with 11.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for a loss in 2021. Finished college with 21 sacks and 39 tackles for a loss. Played against lesser competition.
Run Defense: 5
Good collegiate run defender, but he played in a slanting scheme that attacked the run. Will need to add power at the next level to anchor. Moved out of the way by double teams.
Played all over the place for SDSU. Can rush from a 7-technique one play and move inside to a 3-technique the next. Versatility should carry over to the NFL, but he won’t likely move all the way inside.
Athleticism: 8.68 RAS, 17/20
Thomas did not participate in drills at the NFL Combine while nursing an injury, but he impressed teams at his pro day with an excellent showing. Thomas’s agility scores indicate he’s got multiple ways to win as a pass rusher at the next level.