The Chicago Bears have maintained a strict "Best Player Available" approach the past two drafts under GM Ryan Pace.
That is unlikely to change during the 2017 NFL Draft, as Pace filled most of his roster holes through free agency. At this point, there is not a huge, glaring need on the current roster.
As such, Stanford DL Solomon Thomas becomes a viable option for the Bears with the third overall pick in the draft.
Soloman Thomas, Stanford (6-3, 273)
Redshirt sophomore who in 2016 led the Cardinal with 62 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks. This following a 2015 campaign in which he tallied 10.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. For his effort last year, Thomas was awarded the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
At the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, Thomas put on a show. He posted 30 bench press reps, while posting at or near the top of his position in the broad jump, 3-cone drill and short shuttle. He also posted a 4.69 40-yard dash, which is pretty good for a 273-pound lineman.
-Solid arm extension. Lower body anchor and power to stack and shed.
-Good short-area quickness and agility. Has ability to sidestep blocks without compromising momentum.
-Comes low off the ball. Leverage and power combination creates dangerous bull rush.
-Experience in three- and four-point stance.
-Can play 5-tech and 3-tech, or rush off the edge on passing downs. Has experience rushing from 1-technique. Versatile.
-Good hand placement. Jarring punch.
-Anticipates snap count well. Quick off the snap.
-Consistently double teamed. Production was substantially higher in 1-on-1 situations.
-Too powerful to be blocked 1-on-1 by tight ends or running backs. Just manhandles smaller players.
-Has the potential to be a very disruptive interior defender, one who can penetrate into the backfield and push the pocket in the face of opposing quarterbacks.
-Keeps a calm on-field demeanor.
-His splash plays are eye-poppers, showing off his elite level of athleticism.
-Lacks ideal awareness. Too many plays where the ball carrier runs right by him.
-Does not move great laterally. More of an upfield player.
-Closing burst is a little slow. Doesn’t cover ground quickly.
-Not an elite pass rusher. Gets stuck on blocks when he doesn’t win initially.
-Doesn’t have the speed or agility to bend and turn the corner on a consistent basis.
-Tends to turn his back against the double team, further limiting his vision and mobility.
-Too often allows blockers into his chest. Does not create consistent separation.
-Doesn’t show much emotion on the field, although that may not be such a bad thing.
Thomas was considered a Top 5 prospect heading into the combine but, after his showing in Indianapolis, he's now being discussed as one of the Top 2 players in this class.
What's scary about Thomas is that he was double teamed on a consistent basis last season yet he was still named Pac-12 DPOY. If he had received the same amount of attention as his teammates, his numbers would have been doubled, at least.
When Thomas is locked in, he's borderline unstoppable. He has very good upper body strength and fast hands. He uses a rip and spin move, allowing him to find new life against the run, but he's at his best when he gains leverage and uses his bull rush.
As an interior 3-technique, Thomas has All-Pro potential at the next level. He's fast and powerful off the ball, yet he also has the agility to sidestep blocks and shoot gaps. Against single blocks, Thomas was able to penetrate into the backfield on a regular basis.
He already has a full arsenal off pass-rush moves. If he can refine that arsenal, he has Aaron Donald potential in the NFL.
Yet the film does not show a player who has the size or anchor to play 5-technique against the run. In particular, Thomas struggles against double teams. In Chicago's base 3-4 sets, the defensive ends must be able to swallow up blockers inside and that is not Thomas' game.
Against UCLA last season, Thomas made a splash play on one of the first snaps of the game, taking down the ball carrier in the backfield. UCLA then double-teamed him roughly 90 percent of the remaining snaps. Noticeable was how easily Thomas was moved off his spot, particularly late in the game on power runs.
Against double teams, Thomas is too easily turned and often ends up with his back to the line of scrimmage. Big, nasty blockers give him a lot of trouble, especially when they get into his chest, which is far too often.
Thomas is versatile and has experience rushing off the edge but he doesn't have the agility to turn the corner on a speed rush from the 3-4 OLB spot. He's better suited with his hand in the dirt, using his quickness inside.
Thomas will likely have a career that spans multiple Pro Bowls. His ceiling is immensely high. If the Bears select him third overall, it will be a pick well spent, but Thomas still has work to do, particularly as a run defender.
That said, with his frame, skill set and all-day motor, there's no reason to think he won't continue to get better, potentially to the point of dominance.