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NFL Draft Profile: Drake Thomas, Linebacker, NC State Wolfpack

NFL draft profile scouting report for NC State linebacker, Drake Thomas

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#32
Pos: LB
Ht: 6000
Wt: 238
DOB: 2/25/00
Eligible: 2022
Wake Forest, NC
Heritage High School

Drake Thomas
NC State Wolfpack


Pros:

The best ability is availability. In his first season as a full-time starter at NC State, Drake Thomas proved he has the toughness and resilience to work through a serious pectoral injury that would later require surgery. The Wolfpack standout plays with above-average downhill burst and reasonable lateral agility. In zone coverage, the experienced linebacker sees and understands route development and route combinations. What’s more, he seamlessly recognizes and picks up running backs and tight ends releasing late. Thomas has reliable spatial awareness and constantly communicates with his teammates mid-snap. He has a knack for diagnosing and closing on screens. In man coverage, the North Carolina native flashes the ability to stick with route runners. Against the run, Thomas exhibits the patience and discipline to play with impressive gap integrity. He is simultaneously cautious and aggressive when scraping to the ball carrier. When chasing opponents who have turned the corner, Thomas takes responsible downfield pursuit angles. Against blockers, the NC State product wins by getting skinny before exploding to penetrate. He uses body fakes and jab steps to force false steps. At contact, Thomas naturally wins the leverage battle and works below the blocker’s reach. Further, he employs sound tackling technique and has the stopping power to stand ball carriers up. 

Cons:

Despite his many appealing traits, NC State’s standout linebacker has a shaky projection to the NFL. First and foremost, Thomas looks smaller than his listed 6000, 238 pounds. His arm length leads to various recurring problems on film. Moreover, Thomas repeatedly fails to read the mesh point, tends to bite hard on play-action and prematurely presses the line of scrimmage. He is too easily manipulated by the quarterback or running back in the backfield. Additionally, Thomas struggles with sharp changes of direction. His long speed is uninspiring. As a result, he fails to recover after overcommitting or misreading a play. When taking on blockers, Thomas displays concerning play strength. He rarely employs hand usage to work through them or swipe their punches. Once engaged, the Wolfpack linebacker does not have the length to shed or tackle through contact. Linemen, tight ends and even running backs seal or displace him. He does not have the movement skills to stick with NFL athletes for extended periods in man. Physical route runners may bully him at the next level. In zone, Thomas is slow to close and lacks the length to make plays at the catch point. The exciting defender is fooled by ball carriers prior to the tackle point. He takes aggressive downhill angles and plays the inside leg, giving up the outside. 

Summary:

A standout linebacker on a talented NC State defense, Drake Thomas has a complicated projection to the league. He has impressive awareness in coverage and is a solid tackler once ball carriers come into range. That said, the Wolfpack linebacker’s short arms, lack of play strength against blockers, limited overall movement skills and aggressive playstyle limit his NFL projection. Currently a practice squad-level athlete, Thomas can develop into a rosterable special teamer and depth scheme-versatile WILL linebacker. 

Background:

Born February 25th, 2000 in Wake Forest, North Carolina, Drake Thomas was a standout multi-sport athlete at Heritage High School. A baseball player with a career batting average of .267, the now Wolfpack defender stood out on the football field at middle linebacker and running back. As a sophomore, he put up 113 tackles and seven tackles for loss; he ran 57 times for 336 yards and a touchdown. As a junior, he recorded 112 tackles and three interceptions. On offense, he had 30 carries for 287 yards and three touchdowns. In his final high school season, Thomas made 123 tackles, sacked the quarterback three times and intercepted two passes. He also ran the ball 50 times for 280 yards and seven touchdowns. He even blocked two kicks. That year, Heritage lost in the first round of the NC 4A state playoffs. He ended his career as the school’s all-time leading tackler. He was invited to the 2018 Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas All-Star Game. 247Sports Composite Rankings recognized his stellar performance in high school, awarding him a three-star rating. The outlet also named him the 581st-overall recruit nationally, the 29th-best inside linebacker that year and the 25th-ranked player from North Carolina in his class. Thomas chose NC State over programs like Clemson, Alabama, Michigan and more. In his freshman year for the Wolfpack, the talented linebacker played in 12 games and started three. He put up 34 tackles, four tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one interception, one quarterback hurry and two pass breakups. In 2020, he built upon his stellar debut campaign. He played in and started 10 games; in the process, Thomas recorded 58 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, five quarterback hurries and one pass breakup. He was 30th in the ACC in tackles per game and 17th in tackles for loss. Thomas was fifth and third on the team in tackles and tackles for loss, respectively. He missed the Miami game with a pectoral injury but would play through the pain for the remainder of the regular season. That said, he missed the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl after undergoing surgery. Thomas had another strong statistical performance in 2021. His brother, Thayer Thomas, is a wide receiver at NC State. Drake Thomas is majoring in business administration. 


One-Liners

Despite his impressive awareness in coverage and flashes against the run, Drake Thomas is severely limited by his short arms, lack of play strength against blockers and limited overall movement

Grades

Current Player Value/Potential Player Value

5.8 / 6.7

Floor/Ceiling:

Practice Squad Player / Special Teamer and Depth Linebacker

Scheme Fit:

WILL-only in both a 3-4 and a 4-3

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#32
Pos: LB
Ht: 6000
Wt: 238
DOB: 2/25/00
Eligible: 2022
Wake Forest, NC
Heritage High School

Drake Thomas
NC State Wolfpack


Pros:

The best ability is availability. In his first season as a full-time starter at NC State, Drake Thomas proved he has the toughness and resilience to work through a serious pectoral injury that would later require surgery. The Wolfpack standout plays with above-average downhill burst and reasonable lateral agility. In zone coverage, the experienced linebacker sees and understands route development and route combinations. What’s more, he seamlessly recognizes and picks up running backs and tight ends releasing late. Thomas has reliable spatial awareness and constantly communicates with his teammates mid-snap. He has a knack for diagnosing and closing on screens. In man coverage, the North Carolina native flashes the ability to stick with route runners. Against the run, Thomas exhibits the patience and discipline to play with impressive gap integrity. He is simultaneously cautious and aggressive when scraping to the ball carrier. When chasing opponents who have turned the corner, Thomas takes responsible downfield pursuit angles. Against blockers, the NC State product wins by getting skinny before exploding to penetrate. He uses body fakes and jab steps to force false steps. At contact, Thomas naturally wins the leverage battle and works below the blocker’s reach. Further, he employs sound tackling technique and has the stopping power to stand ball carriers up. 

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