This wraps up a 10-part series by ESPNDallas.com looking at a potential Cowboys pick leading up to the draft. Too see the entire series, go here.
Size: 5-10 1/4, 208
Position: Free safety
Scouts Inc. rank: No. 2 at safety, No. 8 overall (scouting report)
Thomas’ coverage skills are so impressive that some teams project him as a cornerback. He has excellent speed and agility, comes out of breaks smoothly and quickly and possesses exceptional closing speed. He’s a natural playmaker, intercepting 10 passes and recovering five fumbles during his 27-game college career. He has outstanding ball skills. Despite his height, he’s very good at fighting for balls in the air, timing his jumps well. He’s a heady player who spends a lot of free time in the film room.
The biggest knock on Thomas is that he’s not that big, although he added 10 pounds from the end of the season to the scouting combine. There are questions about whether he can be a good run-support safety in the NFL. He’s a willing tackler who doesn’t shy away from contact, but he has difficulty getting off of blocks and bringing down big running backs.
Thomas is exactly what the Cowboys want in a free safety. They’d love to have a playmaker back there who is comfortable in man coverage against slot receivers. Of course, so would a lot of other teams, which is why the odds are slim to none that Thomas slides to No. 27. If the Cowboys really want Thomas, they’ll have to trade up to get him. If Thomas is still on the board in the late teens, don’t be surprised to see Jerry Jones start wheeling and dealing.
TEXAS SECONDARY COACH DUANE AKINA
“The common thread with all the great ones that I’ve coached is that they’re so passionate about the game and work so hard. Here’s a kid who has tremendous talent and works so hard. He loves the game and prepares for the game, not only during the season but all year long. …
“He’s got a natural gift for [making plays]. And what he’s done is gotten in the film room and studied releases, so he understands how a pattern will develop. He started getting into all the little things at the position. … Earl could be a great corner, too. He can play the nickel. He’s a DB who can line up on that slot receiver who runs a 4.3 and cover him. I would put his cover skills and his playmaking ability up against anybody else in the draft. He’s got tremendous position flexibility. …
“He had one punt return for 73 yards. Don’t tell anybody, but the punter tackled him. We’re trying to keep that a secret. …
“We really ask our safeties to do quite a bit. We ask them to make a lot of calls out there, depending on formations. He loves that. He loves to be a student of the game. … He’ll be fine [in run support]. The intent is there. He’s a tough kid by nature and he’ll continue to get bigger. He will hold up. He’s a very tough and prideful kid. I don’t think that’ll be a problem for him, but he’ll continue to grow in that area. … He’s just a real unique talent. Whoever gets him is going to be really lucky.”