Bears

J.T. Thomas draft capsule

J.T. Thomas draft capsule

J.T. Thomas, Linebacker
Height: 6-2 Weight: 225 College: West Suburban
What they say about Thomas

CBSSports.com

Overview

Thomas' career nearly ended the way it began -- accompanied by injury. Two games into his true freshman season, a lingering ankle sprain earned him a medical redshirt. Then, during summer camp before his senior year, he succumbed to a minor neck ailment. But Thomas came back quickly to earn first-team All-Big East accolades this fall, making 73 tackles, seven for loss, 2.5 sacks, four pass break-ups and two forced fumbles.

In between his first and final seasons, Thomas played in all but three games, bringing home multiple team honors for his hard work and high effort during practice and on Saturdays. He started all 13 games for the Mountaineers as a junior, racking up 76 tackles and seven passes defended. Those marks helped him earn coaches' vote on their all-conference first team.

The productive linebacker has his work cut out for him to become an NFL starter. He's an intense player with natural athleticism but his lack of size and marginal instincts make a him a mid-to-late round prospect likely forced to settle for a special teams role, at least early in his career.
Analysis

Positives: A high-motor, full-effort linebacker who will throw himself into contact with reckless abandon. Flies around the field and uses above-average athleticism to recover from mistakes and track down ball carriers from the backside. Takes smart angles to the football and wraps up on contact, making sure tackles to prevent additional yards after the catch. Is relentless fighting off blocks and never gives up on a play. Has some natural fluidity and smoothness in his hips and possesses above-average straight-line speed. Shows the ability to sidestep blockers and can get upfield in a hurry when asked to rush the passer.

Negatives: Has loads of experience, but has not honed his instincts through extended playing time. Often misdiagnoses plays and flies up to defend the run on play-action passes. Will get caught peeking into the backfield or incorrectly anticipating routes. Loses control and has a habit of running himself out of the play while looking for the highlight hit. Is undersized and does not possess the frame to add weight without sacrificing speed. Can be washed at the point of attack by stronger blockers and often allows offensive linemen into his frame. Gets lost in zone coverage consistently and guesses all too often instead of making reads and watching runpass keys. Has a slight injury history and violent style of play will only lead to more ailments at his current build.
Pro Football Weekly

Notes: Prepped in Florida before redshirting in 2006 was bothered by an ankle sprain, though did earn Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year recognition. Arrested in August 07 for transferring and receiving stolen property (laptop), although charges were dropped upon completion of a diversion program. A reserve in the fall, tallied 19 tackles, three for loss and zero sacks in 10 games. Started all 39 games at weak-side linebacker his final three seasons totaled 65-10-3 with three pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick in 08; tallied 76-7- with five pass breakups and two interceptions in 09; had 73-7-2 with four pass breakups and two forced fumbles in 10. Dealt with neck pain during 10 spring practice and fall camp. Team captain.

Positives: Good speed, athletic ability and hip flexibility. Nice agility to slip and avoid blocks. Chases hard and ranges to the sideline. Good coverage instincts blankets a lot of ground. Tough, blue-collar worker who will play hurt. Vocal on-field leader. Durable, three-year starter with special-teams experience. Good work ethic.

Negatives: Has very short arms and marginal take-on strength. Lacks bulk strength and struggles to provide resistance against the run engulfed by larger blockers. Not explosive. Average change of direction and closing burst. Recorded only a 30-inch vertical jump, the lowest of any outside linebacker at the Combine. Character needs to be evaluated.

Summary: Average-sized, athletic, run-and-hit weak-side linebacker who would be best protected and free to roam in a fast-flowing 40 front. Will have to prove his worth on special teams.

NFL projection: Priority free agent.

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents. 

That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?

The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room). 

So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure. 

Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return. 

“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”

If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length. 

Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: