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NFL scouts believe Solomon Thomas not worth top-10 pick

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This popular mock draft target for the Bengals may not be worth that high of a pick after all.

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of the popular first round mock draft targets for the Bengals has been Stanford’s Solomon Thomas.

It makes sense that the stud pass-rusher has frequently been bantered about for Cincinnati at No. 9. As good as the combo of Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap is, the Bengals desperately need a quality third lineman to use with them, not to mention upgrade what was a mediocre pass rush in 2016.

But while Thomas has been mocked to the Bengals at No. 9, some NFL personnel aren’t convinced he should be a high first-round prospect. According to Charlie Campbell of Walter Football, several teams have Thomas graded more in the mid-to-late first round range, which brings into question if he’s worthy of the No. 9 pick.

In speaking with sources from seven different teams, however, six of them thought that Thomas is more of a mid-to-late first-round pick.

A general manger of a NFC playoff team said Thomas should go in the top 24 picks, but they didn't have him as a high first-rounder. Another AFC playoff team graded him as a late first-round pick. The issue that is coming up the most with Thomas is that many teams feel he has tweener size with listed numbers of 6-foot-3, 273-pounds. Some 3-4 teams feel that he isn't a great fit in their defense and more of a 4-3 end. Sources from that AFC playoff team said that Thomas is more of a good left defensive end for a 4-3 team. They think he has good technique, hand use, awareness, and feel while also being a great person off the field. An NFC team picking in the top 20 said they thought Thomas would go in the 11-20 range.

There were a number of interesting comments about Thomas from league sources. One AFC director of college scouting picking in the top 20 had this to say about Thomas: "Late one is right for him. Not worthy of a top 10. Nice player, but not special; undersized defensive end."

One general manager of a team picking in the top 10 said, "Thomas of Stanford does seem a bit rich to go in the top 10, but I think he would go around mid-to-late first ... he is a good football player but may not be quite that 'sexy' to go in the top 10 … time will tell."

While that would seem to be bad news for Thomas, it’s not unheard of for NFL teams to have wide-ranging opinions and views on various prospects. Some teams probably view Thomas as a top-10 pick, while others think he’s more of a late-first guy.

However, because Thomas played in Stanford’s 3-4 defense, there’s skepticism as to how well he’ll fit with an NFL 4-3 defense. He’s too small to be a defensive tackle for the Bengals, who like their tackles to be around 300 pounds, as most teams running 4-3 defenses do. Thomas has been mocked to the Bengals as an end, but it seems there’s some debate as to whether that’s his best position in the NFL.

All that ultimately matters is how high the Bengals have him on their big board, which could be largely affected by what position they think he plays. If they view Thomas as a 4-3 defensive end, he’s probably higher on their board since that’s one of, if not the biggest position of need this offseason.

Bengals defensive coordinator did mention today that even if a prospect is ranked as a mid-first round pick, he’s still a first round pick and could be someone the Bengals are considering with the No. 9 overall selection.

“You can’t get caught up in the No. 9 pick,” Guenther told Bengals.com. “Even if he’s ranked in the middle of the round, he’s still a first-round player. You’re not picking a lesser player.”

But, if the Bengals believe Thomas is a 4-3 defensive tackle, it’s hard to see Cincinnati taking him with a top to pick, even if he’s viewed as a great defensive tackle prospect. Per Campbell:

Another NFC national scout described Thomas like this: "Solomon is explosive, but at 276-280 pounds he's got some tweener. He's not a true defensive end but a hybrid, jack of all trades/master of none type."

WalterFootball.com did speak with a NFC general manager picking outside of the top 10 who did think Thomas was worthy of going that high and had a real shot of being chosen in that range. That general managers said, "Thomas is going higher, many view him as a poor man's Aaron Donald."

Even with the Aaron Donald comp, that’s still not what the Bengals need right now, especially since they have Geno Atkins. If the Bengals are going to take another defensive tackle high in this draft, it’s either going to be a guy who doubles as a tackle and end, or a true 4-3 nose tackle that will be an upgrade over Domata Peko, who is hitting free agency this offseason.

For what it’s worth, a lot of recent mock drafts have had Thomas going before the Bengals can take him, including No. 8 to the Panthers, No. 7 to the Chargers and No. 4 to the Jaguars.

It’s starting to look like that might be a good thing for the Bengals, who probably would rather select someone like Alabama’s Reuben Foster in the first round.