Lions UDFA profile: UAB cornerback Starling Thomas V

The Detroit Lions are hoping to find another useful cornerback from the ranks of the team’s undrafted free agents. This year’s prime candidate is Starling Thomas V of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB), signed by Detroit shortly after the 2023 NFL draft concluded.

Thomas was a player who many analysts expected to be drafted in the late rounds after an impressive career for the Blazers. Between his on-field talent and track star speed, Thomas definitely appeared draft-worthy.

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The speed needs to lead any conversation about Thomas. The 5-10, 190-pound corner ran a 4.37 40-yard dash during the pre-draft workouts, but that was a slow time. He won the Alabama State high school track title in the 100-meter dash at 10.4 seconds. At UAB, he was clocked on GPS timing running over 24.1 MPH–which makes him the fastest player on the Lions.


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Thomas used that speed effectively at UAB, where he primarily played outside CB. He has experience playing press-man and does well in his jam technique. Despite being a little over 5-foot-10, his wingspan is 6-foot-3. Thomas uses the length effectively in both the jam and with the ball in the air. The 23-year-old picked off three passes and got his hands on 23 others in his final two years for the Blazers.


It’s not easy to see Thomas easily transitioning into the slot, though the attempt might be made because of his size and the Lions relative lack of depth inside. His speed can be straight-linish and Thomas’ footwork isn’t smooth in and out of breaks, which is less of a problem when playing outside. Thomas is a willing tackler and brings some snarl and pop to his run defense, but his attack angles can be inconsistent and overaggressive.

You don’t need to watch Thomas for long before you understand his appeal to the Lions. He’s feisty, he’s twitchy and he’s a smart, passionate football player.

He did get a chance to flash his speed as a return man at UAB, and that’s another path for Thomas to make the team. He did miss an entire season (2020) with a torn ACL, but Thomas has been reliable and durable otherwise.

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire