Khyri Thornton, Possible Day 3 Nose Tackle Gem?

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Today, we continue to look at interior defensive lineman, starting with Khyri Thornton

Continuing the interior defensive lineman from yesterday, today we start with Kyrhi Thornton, out of Southern Mississippi. He's not a big name, but Thornton is a powerful, versatile defender that just proves the great depth and value that's in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Thornton weighed in at the combine at 304 pounds, so the thought right away is "he's too small to play nose tackle." At Southern Mississippi, he played quite a bit of "0 technique", where he was lined up directly over the center, and was very effective in doing so.

Traits That Stand Out

  • Very Quick Off the Snap
  • Strong Hands/Upper Body Strength
  • Lives in Opponents Backfield
Much like Louis Nix, Thornton was consistently the first player off of the snap on both sides of the ball. this led to plenty of disruption. When you're the first person off the snap, you create first contact, which is one of the most underrated traits for an offensive or defensive lineman. Creating first contact puts you in control. From there, Thornton displays a very good initial punch.

Kypunch_medium

You could really see Thornton's strength showcase, and it was at multiple positions. I mentioned his versatility, Thornton lined up in about every possible position except a 4-3 defensive end. Wherever he's lined up, he's going to win with his quickness.

Ktquick_medium

I think it's important for whichever defensive lineman San Diego does go with, that he's able to play multiple positions. This is something Thornton brings to the table. He can certainly hold up at the point of attack at nose tackle, something he showed. Despite being "only" 304 pounds, Thornton has that kind of raw power you want in an interior defensive lineman.

Ktlock_medium

Though he played in the Sun Belt conference, Thornton was at his best against the highest competition. Arkansas's center Travis Swanson is viewed as top 5 at his position, and he owned him that day they squared off. His quickness and power really were apparent in against Arkansas.

Ktarmover_medium

Thornton certainly has a skill set that you can mold into a solid starter at the next level. Raw strength, good 1st step, powerful hands, and moves well.

Where He Needs to Improve

  • Awareness
  • Finishing Plays
  • Shedding Blocks
What separates Thornton apart from the 1st tier of defensive tackles is his lack of awareness. For as often as he was in the backfield, his production should've been far greater than it was. He would get in the backfield, and look absolutely lost. Either he would run himself out of plays, or not know what to do when he was back there. There was a moment when he beat his man, and tackled the pulling tight end(he didn't have the ball.) This needs to be addressed.

In a 2-gap system, Thornton won't need to shed blocks nearly as much as he would have to hold at the point of attack, which he is capable of anchoring, but there's no real counter to his game, at all. He will lock his arms out and win with power, or just win with quickness. He could be so much more as a player if he could just disengage and make the play when it presents itself. As a football player, his instincts and awareness just aren't there yet. It seems like he's just watching whats going on, instead of reacting to what's going on(if that makes sense.)

The lack of shedding really hurts him in the passing game, where if he can't win by converting speed to power, then he's not going to offer very much. He did display an arm over move at times, like the last GIF above, but that was few and far between. If Thornton wants to be an every down player, he'll need to use his hands better to keep himself clean, as well as develop an arsenal of pass rush moves.

Grade/Final Thought

Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10 8.5 – 9.0
Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round 8.0 – 8.4
Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round 7.8 – 7.9
Reliable Starter, 2nd Round 7.5 – 7.7
Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round 7.0 – 7.4
Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round 6.5 – 6.9
Productive Backup, 5th Round 6.0 – 6.4
Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round 5.5 – 5.9
Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round 5.0 – 5.4
Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round 4.5 – 4.9
Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations 4.0 – 4.4
Non-Draftable
Trait Weight Grade
Run Stopping 2 1.8
Hand Usage/placement 4 3.3
First Step 2 1.9
Tackling 2 1.8
Disengage 3 2.2
Read & React 2 1
Leverage/Strength 4 3.6
Pass Rush 2 1
Motor 2 1.6
Lateral Movement 2 1.6
Thornton grades out to a late/fringe 3rd rounder, at 7.12. One thing he has that you can't teach, explosiveness. He also has raw power, and he's proven to be disruptive. Add that with his versatility to play any position from nose tackle to a 3-4 defensive end, and some team might roll the dice on him earlier than where he grades out. He'll need to become more sound as a football player, and do much better at locating the ball.

How He Fits as a Charger

Thornton would provide a much needed body along the defensive line. He could spell both ends, come in at nose tackle, and be productive at each position. When the Chargers go to their Nickel formation, that's where Thornton would be at his best, where he could be aggressive, and shoot gaps with his explosive first step. I wouldn't have any issues adding a player who could help right away up front.
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