It's tough to win in today's NFL if you can't get to the opposing team's quarterback. That puts a premium on defensive ends and edge rushers who can crash the pocket and disrupt passing plays. If a player can do those things from anywhere on the defensive line, he only becomes more valuable.
Former Miami Hurricanes defensive end Chad Thomas is a guy who can do all of that.
Thomas is a 6-foot-6, 275-pound defensive lineman with the strength and speed to play anywhere up front and be effective from either a two- or three-point stance. This gives him the ability to stay on the field, regardless of what defensive front is called.
Looking at his highlights, you'll see a player built like most running backs, only in a much larger body. He's in the pocket on nearly every passing play, whether it's the result of an effective swim move, spin or brutal bull-rush of an offensive tackle. If he doesn't get to the quarterback before the ball is out, he is immediately peeling off his blocker and flying downfield to make a play on the ball carrier.
Thomas is quite simply everything you could ask for in a defensive end.
Thomas turned quite a few heads during the East-West Shrine Bowl practice week, and he'll likely turn many more at the NFL Scouting Combine. It would be a shock to not see his name at the top of nearly every workout result in his group. If he can show any improvement in his technique, particularly his hands, Thomas has a chance to vault himself up into the first-round conversation, as opposed to currently being projected to be drafted anywhere between the second and fourth rounds
He has a chance to shine in the interview process as well, as his experience in doing business with some top-flight entertainers may come in handy. Thomas has a budding music career and has rubbed elbows with some celebrities as a result. He's not likely to be intimated by coaches asking him questions about his life.
If you are a fan of a team that needs help on its defensive line, Chad Thomas is a guy to keep an eye on through this draft season.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, SBNation and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.