Summary: There is some debate about the position that Thomas should play in the NFL. Some view him as a potential tackle while others view him as a guard. Thomas played well as both a tackle and guard at Tennessee, which just fuels the debate. Unfortunately, Thomas had to leave the Senior Bowl early so no answers were provided in Mobile.
Thomas was the left tackle protecting Tyler Bray's blind side during the 2011 season. The Volunteers allowed just 18 sacks (1.5 per game), the third lowest total in the SEC. Overall, Thomas played well on the edge.
Tennessee moved Thomas to left guard for 2012, and he was even better as a senior. His pass protection for Bray was rock solid while being an effective ground blocker. Thomas played well against Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi State. He had some good battles against Georgia and massive defensive tackle John Jenkins.
Thomas best skill for the NFL is his pass protection. He is very agile to handle speed-rushers yet has the strength to anchor against big bull-rushers. Thomas will appeal to a lot of teams in the passing-obsessed NFL that are looking for an interior lineman who can maintain a clean pocket.
Thomas is also a reliable blocker in the ground game who consistently wins at the point of attack. He is very good at pulling and getting to the second level. His' quickness and athleticism should have a real appeal to zone-blocking teams.
Thomas could use another 10-15 pounds of bulk for the next level to move linemen in the ground game. He has the frame to add the weight, and it shouldn't be a problem after he gets in a NFL strength and conditioning program.
After watching Tennessee in a number of games, left guard looks like Thomas' best position for the NFL given his body type. He doesn't really have the arm length or height to be a left tackle at the next level. However, Thomas experience at left tackle could be valuable on game day if an injury takes down the starting left tackle. He looks like a quick starter at guard in the NFL.
Thomas looks like a secure second-round pick, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility that he could get late first-round consideration.
Player Comparison: Ben Grubbs. Thomas has a similar style of play to the Saints' Grubbs. Both excel in pass protection and are good blockers. Thomas could end up being bigger than Grubbs (6-3, 310), as Thomas is taller and hasn't worked in an NFL strength and conditioning program. Grubbs was the 29th overall-pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, and Thomas will likely go a little bit later. In the NFL, I see Thomas being a guard of Grubbs' caliber.
NFL Matches: Jacksonville, Detroit, Tennessee, Miami, Green Bay
There are a lot of teams that could consider Thomas in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. The highest that he could hope to go is the 33rd overall-pick to Jacksonville. The Jaguars offensive line was terrible and Thomas would be an instant upgrade. Jacksonville needs to land multiple new starters for its offensive front.
The Lions are another team that needs to rebuild the interior of the offensive line. Thomas pass-blocking skills would be perfect for Detroit and its inclination to throw lots of passes. The Lions would also improve their run-blocking potential with Thomas.
One of the top priorities for the Titans is to upgrade the interior of their offensive line. Tennessee would find an immediate upgrade with Thomas. He would work well run blocking for Chris Johnson and providing better protection for Jake Locker.
The Dolphins could use an upgrade over Richie Incognito at guard, and Thomas' athleticism would make him a good fit in their zone-blocking system. The Packers also run a zone-blocking system and need to improve the inside of their line. Thomas would be a good value for Green Bay late in the second round.