2014 NFL Draft

De'Anthony Thomas Will Prove His Draft Worth at NFL Combine

Nov 29, 2013; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks running back De'Anthony Thomas (6) runs the ball against the Oregon State Beavers at Matthew Knight Arena. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2014

The NFL Scouting Combine was built for players like Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas.

Years ago, NFL scouts would have given the 5’9” and 176-pound (via ESPN.com) Thomas one look and moved on to a bigger, more traditional running back. However, the speedster will put on a show in his individual workouts and improve his draft status in the process.

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Look for Thomas to potentially post the fastest 40-yard-dash time of the entire 2014 draft class, immediately landing him on the radar of every team in the league. He will also dazzle in any drills that involve quickness and agility, including the shuttle run and the three-cone drill.

It won’t just be Thomas’ overall speed that impresses, as his explosiveness and ability to stop on a dime and quickly turn directions will be on full display.

That’s not to say there aren’t some concerns with the former Duck as he projects to the next level.

EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 29:  De'Anthony Thomas #6 of the Oregon Ducks runs the ball against the Oregon State Beavers during the 117th playing of the Civil War on November 29, 2013 at the Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Ima
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

His lack of size makes him an injury risk every time he is hit, and the three games he missed at Oregon this season will be used as evidence of an injury history.

Thomas is also far from a traditional back in the NFL and will frankly get eaten alive if he tries to consistently run between the tackles. Furthermore, the speed in the NFL is at a different level across the positional board, so it will be more difficult for him to simply outrun the opposition like he did against the likes of California and Washington State.

TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 23:  Running back De'Anthony Thomas #6 of the Oregon Ducks rushes the football against the Arizona Wildcats during the college football game at Arizona Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats defeated the Ducks
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Still, it’s hard to ignore the production of someone who finished his three years at Oregon with 1,890 rushing yards, 1,296 receiving yards and 46 overall touchdowns. He posted 13 touchdowns of 30 yards or more in 2012 alone and counts the Pac-12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year award and an All-Pac-12 selection to his resume.

TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 23:  Running back De'Anthony Thomas #6 of the Oregon Ducks rushes the football during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Wildcats defeated the Ducks
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Thomas made a national name for himself with 314 all-purpose yards in the Rose Bowl against Russell Wilson’s Wisconsin team.

NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock discussed Thomas’ NFL upside with Tyson Alger of The Oregonian:

(You) got to have a plan in place for how you use him. He's a kickoff guy, plus we got to get him 10 touches a game. How do we manufacture those 8 to 10 touches a game so he can make those plays for us that he did at Oregon?

Because of his speed and playmaking ability, in today's NFL he's more valuable that he would have been six, eight, 10 years ago.

Thomas is clearly not going to be a first-round pick, but he will demonstrate his worth as a mid-round flier at the combine. The spread offense has found a home in the NFL, and the Oregon product can stretch the field with his game-changing speed as a slot receiver, a change-of-pace back or even a featured player in a read-option scheme.

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 07:  Running back De'Anthony Thomas #6 of the Oregon Ducks runs the ball in the first half in front of linebacker James Vaughters #9 of the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on November 7, 2013 in Palo Alto, California.  (Phot
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Few teams, if any, rely solely on one running back in the NFL today, so even if Thomas could provide five to eight carries a game, he would have value.

Finally, Thomas’ ability as a kick returner is where he shows the most upside. 

There’s not a team in the league that would hesitate to take him in the middle rounds if it thought it was getting the next version of Devin Hester in his prime, which is exactly who Thomas will remind scouts of during the NFL combine.

 

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