Adalius Thomas was drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft out of Southern Mississippi. As is the case with most sixth-rounders, expectations were not incredibly high for Thomas. He played in a weaker conference during his college years and although he clearly had athleticism – also playing basketball for two years at USM – Thomas was not regarded as a high-end prospect. Ten seasons and 517 tackles later, I would love to argue that he was an absolute steal.
Even as a pro, I always got the impression that Thomas was undervalued. Although, given who his teammates were, that was not a complete surprise. Thomas saw limited playing time during his rookie campaign, and most of that had to do with his competition. Michael McCrary and Peter Boulware were ahead of Thomas on the depth chart; not so easy trying to find minutes going against veterans like that. He stuck with it though and finally got his opportunity to lead in his fourth season. By that time, his name still wasn’t that high on the popularity charts. How could it be? Ray Lewis and Ed Reed? It is definitely tough to top that list.
What made Thomas a standout was his complete versatility. He was drafted as a defensive end. In 2005, he was named the starting outside-linebacker. Thomas even saw some limited time at cornerback. You’re following this right? That’s amazing! Let’s also keep in mind that he wasn’t on some slouch defensive unit doing all of this. Did I mention he was also a premier special-team player? It was the first place he earned recognition, earning a Pro Bowl bid for his services in 2003 before becoming a full time starter.
2006, his final year as a Raven, may have been his finest. He was voted to the Pro Bowl as well as earning All-Pro honors after recording 11 sacks and over 100 tackles. That Ravens team went 13-3, and a season like the one Thomas had usually gets you paid. And it did. New England unloaded for him at a time when Baltimore was unable to do so. He spent the next three seasons as a Patriot until he was ultimately cut in 2010, never to play again.
Thomas pretty much stays out of the limelight these days, although that’s not a bad thing. He has only been out of the league for a few years now, and players that play for a decade or more often relax for a while. Given some time it wouldn’t surprise me to see Thomas on the sideline again, in some fashion. Though it is tough to coach your run-of-the-mill 270 lb guy to cover Chad Ochocinco in his prime. He’ll hold on to that secret for a while.