Matthew Thomas is overcoming a lot of adversity to earn his place in the NFL, but his matured attitude should land him a spot with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Former 5-star LB recruit Matthew Thomas’ first 3 years at Florida State University were unremarkable. A shoulder injury sidelined him for most of his freshman year. A violation of team rules cost him 6 games his sophomore year and, he was academically ineligible for the entire 2015 season. According to sport-reference.com, Thomas managed a mere 29 tackles during this time period.
Thomas used 2015 to get his head straight and priorities in order. When he returned to the playing field in 2016, Thomas led the Seminole defense with 77 tackles and 11 TFL. Last year, Thomas led the defense again by recording 85 tackles and 10 TFL.
In this year’s draft, the 5th year senior was projected to go between the 5th and 7th rounds. Thomas ended up going undrafted. But flashed enough possibility to garner a FA contract from the Steelers.
Thomas has the size (6’3”, 232 lbs.) and speed (4.5) to make plays as a LB in the NFL. According to NFL.com, his draft number was 5.16. Which means Thomas has a “better than average chance to make a roster.”
Like most players coming into the NFL, Thomas has issues needing improvement. LB Coach Joey Porter will need to ignite a fire in him, since he sometimes plays uninspired. Coach Porter will also need to teach him better techniques for shedding blocks and covering passes.
When the Training Camp dust settles, don’t be surprised to see Thomas beat out L.J. Fort and Matt Galambos for the backup WLB spot. Thomas is much faster and more athletic than either player. He is good running downhill, filling gaps and delivering big hits.. His speed also makes it difficult for RBs to turn the corner.
Mathew Thomas could be this year’s Anthony Chickillo, by immediately contributing on special teams and developing into a solid backup LB. Or who knows? 5 years from now, with his physical attributes and, the proper motivation and instruction, Thomas could turn into a standout WLB worthy of being considered “the steal” of the 2018 NFL Draft.