- 2013 NFL DRAFT RANG'S GANG: FS: Phillip Thomas, Fresno State, 6-1, 208, 4.57...The NFL loves playmakers and so do I. Thomas led the country with eight interceptions in 2012, demonstrating instincts, range and terrific ball-skills. While it took Thomas "breakout" senior campaign to earn him attention as a Thorpe Award finalist and All-American, scouts have been buzzing about this Bulldog for years. - Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com
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Blame it on the so-called "East Coast bias" or the horrific leg injury that ended Thomas' 2011 season before it even began. For whatever reason, the playmaking free safety has not generated the national attention he has deserved throughout a terrific career with the Bulldogs.
Blessed with good physical traits and even more impressive instincts and toughness, Thomas has proven himself to be a natural playmaker over four starting seasons with the Bulldogs. He's responsible for producing 20 turnovers (13 interceptions, six forced fumbles, one fumble recovery) over his career and joined Alabama's Dee Milliner and Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks as a finalist for the 2012 Thorpe Award as the nation's top defender.
It isn't difficult to understand why, as Thomas led the country with eight interceptions over the regular season (three of which he has returned for touchdowns) and forced five fumbles in leading Fresno State to a share of the Mountain West crown in its first season in the conference.
Only the fact that Thomas' success has come against WAC and Mountain West competition is likely to keep teams from using a top 100 selection on him.
A Thorpe Award candidate with an FBS-leading leading eight interceptions (including three he's returned for touchdowns), Thomas is the best safety most haven't heard of.
Positives: Well proportioned athlete with good straight-line speed, agility and terrific closing speed. Very good anticipatory skills. Recognizes where the play is going and arrives in time to make a play, whether it be against the run or the pass. Reliable ball-skills. Tracks the ball well, showing good leaping ability and soft hands to pluck the ball from the air. Physical hitter. Lowers his shoulder into the ball-carrier to make the forceful hit and wraps securely to assure the tackle. Possesses the light feet and surprisingly fluid hips to drop down and cover receivers out of the slot. Very good open-field running ability, due to his agility, speed and vision to be a threat with the ball in his hands.
Negatives: May not possess top-end timed speed some teams are looking for in a true centerfielder against NFL passing attacks. Trusts his instincts and will occasionally get burned when gambling on play-action or double-moves by receivers. Missed the entire 2011 season with a broken left leg and dislocated left ankle that occurred during a non-contact drill just three days prior to the Bulldogs' first game.
Compares To: Michael Griffin, FS, Tennessee Titans -- Like Griffin, Thomas boasts an impressive combination of size, athleticism and playmaking ability.