EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 08: Robert Woods #2 of the USC Trojans runs along the sidelines as Shamarko Thomas #21 of the Syracuse Orange defends during a game at MetLife Stadium on September 8, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas played all over the field—including at linebacker and cornerback—during the last two seasons. He led Syracuse in tackles, forced fumbles, and interceptions in 2012.
Thomas is a short, stocky safety at 5-9, 213 pounds. He carries that weight very well, running a 4.42 at the Combine, although he reportedly ran a 4.26 during his time at Syracuse. Thomas is an overall explosive athlete. He recorded an 11-1 broad jump, which is remarkable for someone his size, and 28 reps on the bench press.
On the field, Thomas is extremely aggressive; Mike Mayock described him as a “heat-seeking missile,” and that observation couldn’t be more accurate. Thomas is much like Troy Polamalu in that he’s always around the football. He plays all over the field—in the box, in the slot, and from a deep position—but he consistently finds himself in on plays. He really throws his body around, dodging defenders in traffic and flying up to make plays in the backfield.
Thomas is a natural athlete—fluid in his movements, which is why he has the ability to play in the slot. Thomas could legitimately play as a nickel cornerback at the next level, but he also has the ability to play the deep half and even a “centerfield” position at times. He’s perhaps the most versatile safety I’ve studied this year.
Many say that Thomas’s biggest weakness is his size, but I don’t think he plays as small as he is. He plays the run better than most safeties much larger. His biggest weakness, in my view, is that his aggressiveness causes him to overrun plays or miss on his press at times.
NFL Comparison: Bob Sanders
There’s no doubt about this one. Like Sanders, Thomas is an undersized, aggressive safety capable of making big plays against both the run and pass. Thomas might be even more explosive than Sanders.
Thomas will drop into the second round, and maybe even the third, because of his size. He’ll be ranked near the top of my safety board, probably right behind Kenny Vaccaro. I think he’s an early-second round talent—a true game-changer whose size limitations won’t be a major problem in the NFL.
Fit In Dallas
I love how Thomas could potentially fit in Dallas, playing the deep half in Cover 2 looks but moving into the box in Cover 3 and man. The ‘Boys would probably need to grab Thomas in the second round, although he could slip to the third, and I think he’d immediately compete for a starting job. He also has special teams experience.
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Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.