An enigma of sorts, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has yet to live up to the expectations that many draft analysts and scouts placed upon his table following a breakout 2011 campaign.
Certainly looking the part and fitting the bill as a rare NFL talent, Thomas is a big, strong, physical prospect that possesses the elite arm talent, movement skills and playmaking ability that NFL teams vie for at the quarterback position. Taking into account the tools with which he has to work with, it’s easy to compare Thomas to Ben Roethlisberger, or even Cam Newton.
The fact of the matter, though, is that Thomas is neither player and will require much more development as a senior at Virginia Tech in 2013 or as a backup on an NFL team.
After taking leaps and bounds in his development as a quarterback from 2010 to 2011, Thomas has fallen down draft boards due to a lack of similar progression this season as a redshirt junior.
After viewing two games versus Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh in 2012, I highlighted Thomas as one of seven prospects whose draft stock was plummeting. The main reason of concern at that point in time revolved around the functionality of his throwing mechanics. While each of those critiques still hold true, many more factors need to be reviewed and addressed in assessing the true draft value of Logan Thomas.
Recruited as a tight end and switched back to his high school position of quarterback during the fall camp of his freshman season, Thomas spent the first his first two years sitting and learning behind the tutelage of former Hokies starter Tyrod Taylor.
After redshirting and signaling offensive play calls to Taylor in 2009 and serving as the backup in 2010, Thomas finally earned his opportunity to take over the football team with the graduation of Taylor.
In his first season, Thomas took the national scene by storm, flashing his deep-ball prowess and ability to create big plays with his tremendous athleticism. Breaking Taylor’s 2010 record for total offensive yardage in a single season, Thomas appeared to be coming into his own both as a pro prospect and collegiate player.
Considering the time spent behind Taylor and immediate success in his first year as a starter, it’s fairly evident that Thomas prepared himself extremely well for the opportunity he would receive as the starter in 2011.
Now that he’s accomplished the task of becoming Virginia Tech’s starter and been highly productive in that first season, the question immediately shifts to, “How will he handle success?”
Before entering that discussion, it’s important to note that, for obvious reasons, the combination of Thomas’ athleticism, mobility and powerful arm talent is difficult for scouts to overlook. Simply put, not many quarterbacks are 6’6", weigh 250 pounds, can run a 4.7 40-yard dash and can drive throws to all levels of the playing field.
Delivering the football from a high, over-the-top release point, Thomas’ arm slot and height enable him to easily locate and utilize throwing lanes from within the pocket, a must-have attribute at the next level. Flashing the ability to complete tight window passes beyond 15 yards; Thomas makes difficult downfield throws look easy.
Still, overlooked in the love fest of Logan Thomas’ physical attributes are a number of glaring concerns regarding the mechanics with which he plays the position. Overly reliant upon his big arm, Thomas has not shown the attention to detail that is so crucially important.
The results of Thomas not developing the finer points to the position have been late throws and inaccuracy as a whole, especially in the short passing game. Surprisingly more on target beyond 15 yards, Thomas’ accuracy down the field may be a product of his concentration level improving with increased yardage. Again an enigma of sorts, Thomas is a difficult puzzle to piece together.
Generally sloppy with his lower-body mechanics, Thomas fails to reach his intended pass drop with a sense of urgency, which in turn leads to slow progressions in the post-snap phase. Because he takes so much time getting to ideal pass drop depth, the timing of his progressional reads always seem to be a split-second off. Eyeballing his primary read and immediately moving to his checkdown once the primary is considered unavailable, Thomas bypasses secondary routes through his post-snap deciphering. As such, Thomas will leave plays-to-be-had on the field.
Predetermining throws at the line of scrimmage have also plagued the Virginia Tech Hokie, as his decision-making has been suspect to say the least. Not having the eye discipline to disguise his initial read, Thomas keys onto his No. 1 option while failing to validate and adjust to post-snap coverage. Anticipation throws are hard to come by with Thomas, and his sight-throwing habits allow defenders to get great jumps on his throws.
And while the previously mentioned flaws are readily correctable, the more concerning issues lie with the moment in which Thomas delivers the football. Extremely inconsistent in stepping to the target line, an issue that has increasingly arisen with Thomas’ mechanics, is his lack of a uniform stride length. Falling off and away from his base or delivering the football flat-footed, Thomas’ low throws can be directly attributed to his lower-half inconsistencies. Even when presented with a clean pocket, Thomas only flashes proper weight transfer upon delivery.
Equally distressing is the regression Thomas has experienced in regards to ball control. Struggling with velocity adjustments, Thomas doesn’t display the natural passing instincts you expect from a redshirt junior prospect. Part of these release concerns involve the mechanics discussed in my previous post; however, the poor throws I have viewed in 2012 seem to be more of a lacking of confidence than anything else.
Whether the pressure has reached a boiling point or Thomas just is not trusting his pre-snap reads, there has not been a great deal of decisiveness evidenced in his play. I sense far too much thinking and pressing from Thomas, and he’s the type of playmaker that thrives in reactionary, broken play opportunities.
Although Thomas’ team has struggled in general, from defensive lapses, to running game woes, to inexperience along the offensive line, the junior quarterback still needs to be highly regarded as a draft prospect.
It’s far too early to staple a round projection, or even a final grade, on Thomas, as he has yet to declare or even test at the NFL combine. That notwithstanding, Thomas will most certainly receive an opportunity to develop with a “quarterback of the future” labeling.
Not to rehash on positives discussed early and throughout, Thomas is very physical, having plus size, strength, speed and arm talent. Able to run through multiple defenders with his massive frame or elude with subtle lateral agility and impressive straight-line speed, Thomas’ mobility is a major plus for potential NFL buyers. Shaking off defenders in the pocket or downfield, you can’t help but to compare Thomas to the Pittsburgh Steelers' franchise signal-caller, Ben Roethlisberger
As the old adage goes, “You’re never as good as you think. And you’re never as bad as you think.”
Very much the case with Logan Thomas’ draft value. I still see a rare physical specimen capable of starting in the NFL. In just his second year as a collegiate starter, a majority of Thomas’ struggles revolve around his instincts as a passer and still developing throwing mechanics. With an inexperienced quarterback, these types of struggles are to be expected. The lofty praise he received in the preseason was justifiable in some aspects, yet the pressure clearly has affected his play.
Edging closer and closer to draft time, should Thomas declare, you can expect the Virginia Tech quarterback to be highly regarded by NFL teams as a potential Day 2 selection.
*In researching and studying Logan Thomas' performances in 2011 and 2012, I reached out to my colleague at Optimum Scouting, head east scout Jimmy O'Brien, for his unique insight regarding the Virginia Tech quarterback. I highly recommend you follow Jimmy on Twitter (@phillyjimmy), as he regularly posts NFL draft insight and video cut-ups of NFL draft prospects.