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Bears Must Weigh Risk, Reward With Solomon Thomas

By Chris Emma--

(CBS) Bears guard Kyle Long couldn't help himself, enamored by the tape.

Admittedly not a draft junkie, Long happened upon the film of Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, a potential pick for his Bears.

"The most NFL-ready-looking dude," Long tweeted, citing the twitch and game strength of Thomas.

Whether general managers like the Bears' Ryan Pace agree remains to be seen. Thomas has impressive tape from Stanford, but he checked in at the NFL Combine at 273 pounds.Thomas typically plays around 275, he said. That would be considered undersized to play the role of 5-technique in a 3-4 defense. By comparison, Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks is 6-foot-5 and 336 pounds. Mitch Unrein is 6-foot-4 and 299 pounds.

Thomas respectfully disagrees with the assessments that he can't fit in certain systems.

"It really doesn't matter," Thomas responded to the labels he has received. "I can beef up and be that 3-4 defensive end or slide down to a '3' (technique) if they go to an over front. I can also be a 4-3 defensive end and still move down to that '3' technique. I can move outside if you want me to. I'll play wherever they need me to. I can play 'em all.

"I'm not labeled to a 4-3, I'm not labeled to a 3-4 team. I can play any system, team and I can play any position on the D-line."

Myles Garrett is considered the consensus top player in this class, a dynamic edge rusher who could transform a defense. But the debate for second-best is an interesting one, with Thomas in the mix.

Most teams seem willing to look past Thomas' frame and simply watch the film. He posted 62 tackles, including 15 for a loss, and finished with eight sacks last season. With all eyes on North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the Sun Bowl, there was Thomas hot on his heals for most of the game.

Thomas and Alabama's Jonathan Allen are being compared to each other, as both are considered potential top-five picks at defensive end. While Allen looks like a prototype, the 21-year-old Solomon has great upside.

"I don't think anyone gets after it like me," Thomas said. "No one plays extremely tough like I do. I just try to show I'm the best I can be. That's my goal, to always be the best. You have to think you're the best to be the best."

A team like the Bears would be taking a risk picking Thomas at No. 3 given that he may not properly fit in their schemes. His production at Stanford came in a base 4-3 system, and he wasn't facing NFL tackles in Pac-12 play.

Thomas would have to either bulk up or show his explosiveness and athleticism render the size meaningless. Given the way Thomas plays, it's possible he can dominate at the next level. Even a Pro Bowl guard like Long seems to agree.

Decisions on Thomas must first weigh the risks, but the reward could be great. The Bears will consider his potential impact.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago's sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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