It pays to have friends in high places.
For proof, look no further than defensive end Chad Thomas, a third-round selection by the Cleveland Browns in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Thomas had a rookie season to forget as he was a regular addition to the weekly inactive list and ultimately only saw the field for 22 plays all season. Despite that, the Browns are hoping for more from Thomas, who finished his four-year collegiate career at the University of Miami with 10 sacks, 26 tackles for loss and 103 total tackles.
Alonzo Highsmith, the Browns vice president of player personnel and, like Thomas, a former Hurricane, highlighted the second-year defensive end as someone who will “have an opportunity to play” in Sunday’s episode of Building the Browns.
Thomas also has general manager John Dorsey in his corner, and Dorsey has shown a willingness to create opportunities for his draft picks to see the field. (See the trade of right guard Kevin Zeitler to clear a path for Austin Corbett as an example.)
Back in February, Dorsey appeared on the team’s in-house show Cleveland Browns Daily and dropped a hint about opening up a path for Corbett and Thomas, according to 247Sports:
“I think those guys are going to be really good football players ... Likewise with Chad Thomas, he has got a lot of good football players ahead of him. He will see the field eventually and then people will begin to see what those two guys can do. I really think those guys are good football players.”
The trade of defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah cleared out one of the obstacles in the way of Thomas seeing more playing time. Training camp and the preseason will probably move someone else out of the way.
All kidding aside, the Browns invested a third-round pick in Thomas, so they need to start seeing a return on that, especially given the lack of production from the backups along the defensive line last season.
So while Highsmith and Dorsey have a vested interest in Thomas, a more objective take comes from Clyde Simmons, who worked as the team’s defensive line coach in 2018.
An early injury slowed Thomas during training camp, and once the regular season got rolling the opportunities for him to show what he could do were limited. But Simmons still likes Thomas’ potential, as he told cleveland.com in January:
“He had that groin injury early in the year and it was a matter of him just finding himself. He didn’t get the reps in training camp and there’s not a ton of reps when you get into the regular season. Chad’s got a bright future ahead of him too. He’s going to be that guy that can play left, he can play end and he can play three-technique. He’s just got to get out there and figure a way to get it done.’’
The Browns are doing what they can to create an opportunity for Thomas to show why he was worth drafting in 2018.
What he does with the opportunity is now up to him.