SDSU DE Cameron Thomas drafted by Cardinals with 87th pick

Credit: Go Aztecs

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Credit: Go, Aztecs

Cameron Thomas, the Mountain West Defensive Player of the year and All-American, was selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the 87th pick of the third round of the NFL Draft.

Thomas is the first Aztec defensive lineman drafted since Jerome Long was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 218th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He is also the highest-drafted Aztec since 2019, when tight end Kahale Warring was taken with the 86th pick by the Houston Texans.

After finishing the 2021 season strong, Thomas was listed in several mock drafts as a late first-round pick in January. Unfortunately, Thomas injured his hamstring on the first day of practices at the Senior Bowl and was unable to participate the rest of the week. His hamstring injury prevented him from performing in the majority of drills and test events at the Scouting Combine. 

Coincidentally, Thomas slipped down positional rankings and mock drafts and came into the Draft this week projected as a late third-round/early fourth-round pick. It is difficult to say whether his drop in rankings was solely due to his hamstring injury keeping teams from truly evaluating him or whether evaluators dug more into his tape over the past three months and moved other edge defenders ahead of him. 

Thomas will join a Cardinal defensive line led by future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt. A player Thomas has been compared to in draft evaluations. Watt, who wears #99 as Thomas did in college, is entering the final year of his contract and, at 33 years old, is on the downside of his career. Thomas will be able to learn and study the habits of one of the best defensive players of the past two decades. 

The Cardinals lost star defensive end Chandler Jones to the Raiders in free agency this offseason, a void they would look for Thomas to fill in Vance Joseph’s aggressive 3-4 defense. The Cardinals doubled up on defensive ends later in the third round by selecting Myjai Sanders from Cincinnati with the 100th pick of the NFL Draft. Thomas’ versatility to play inside and outside in a 3-4 defense will give him a good chance to get on the field in his rookie season. 

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The NFL Draft concludes on Saturday, with rounds four through seven taking place. Several other Aztec players will look to have their names called, including tight end Daniel Bellinger and punter Matt Araiza. Zach Thomas also hopes to use his impressive Scouting Combine performance to join his brother on the 2022 draft list.

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