Oregon playmaker De'Anthony Thomas flew under the radar at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday, struggling to showcase his world-class speed and athleticism throughout workouts in Indianapolis.
Although it's tough to judge Thomas or any other skill-position player without the ball in their hands, Thomas squandered a golden opportunity to wow coaches and general managers in the 40-yard dash.
The original "Black Mamba" posted a stellar unofficial time of 4.34 seconds in the popular drill, ranking only behind Kent State running back Dri Archer, whose 4.26 is the fastest of any player thus far.
De'Anthony Thomas with an unofficial 4.34 40, with Chip watching upstairs. Thomas reminded that he was the first "Black Mamba," before Kobe.— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) February 23, 2014
However, upon further review, Thomas' official time would be recorded at 4.50 seconds.
NFL has De'Anthony Thomas' official 40-time at 4.50— Tyson Alger (@tysonalger) February 23, 2014
What makes Thomas' disappointing time encouraging, though, is the fact that he's just as quick with pads and a helmet, per CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman:
#Oregon De'Anthony Thomas clocks unofficial 4.34 40.. And he plays that fast— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) February 23, 2014
With Thomas' time in Indy coming to an end, here we'll break down his results and highlight some of the reaction from around the league.
|40-Yard Dash||Bench Press||Vertical Jump||Broad Jump||3-Cone Drill||20-Yard Shuttle||60-Yard Shuttle|
Thomas, who measured in at 5'9", 174 pounds, wasn't very impressive on the bench or in the vertical jump on Sunday, but his broad jump of 124 inches (10'4") ranked close behind the top running backs.
Dri Archer is a beast. 20 reps on the bench and he weighs only 173, a pound lighter than De'Anthony Thomas who benched 8 reps.— Chris Jarmon (@Chris_Jarmon) February 23, 2014
But let's face it, teams won't be lining up to draft Thomas for his upper body strength or leaping ability.
Thomas' game revolves around speed, something that can't be taught or coached.
De Anthony Thomas was FLYING!!! Wow— Kevin Johnson (@KevJr9) February 23, 2014
Based on his strengths and combine numbers, it's likely he'll do most of his damage at the next level as a return man, where his speed, agility and play-making prowess can be best utilized.
Thomas is listed as a running back ahead of the 2014 draft, but has the potential to shine as a slot receiver as well given his burst and his ball skills. Although his size could hold him back against NFL cornerbacks and safeties, he's sure to be effective if a team can find a way to get the ball in his hands quickly.
Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell had high praise for Thomas when discussing his next-level potential in a recent interview, per The Oregonian's Andrew Greif:
I think when LaMichael (James) was here he had a faster 40-yard time on paper but this guy plays faster than anything you put him on the clock on. He's the fastest player on the football field that I've had.
He plays a lot faster than he really is. He's got great speed but I think he plays even faster and I think that's going to be an advantage. He's not real elusive in terms of facing guys up and putting moves on them but once he gets rolling he can make a move and put a cut on you that is unparalleled.
Thomas rushed for 1,890 yards and racked up 1,296 receiving yards in three seasons with the Ducks, but was most successful on special teams. As a freshman in 2011, Thomas recorded 983 yards and two touchdowns on 36 kickoff returns. He scored a kickoff return touchdown in each of the past two seasons as well en route to averaging slightly more than 24 yards per kickoff return since his sophomore year.
Though Thomas was hoping for a faster 40-yard-dash time, his game speed will show up on tape time and again.
Gadget players De'Anthony Thomas, Dri Archer and Jerrick McKinnon are doing a nice job validating their speed here. #NFLCombine— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) February 23, 2014
Although Thomas' athleticism and explosiveness were both on display throughout his participation in combine workouts on Sunday, it remains to be seen whether this performance will cause him to free-fall on draft boards across the league.
ESPN Insider (paid subscription required) ranks Thomas as the sixth-best running back available in 2014, but his lack of bulk and power make him a question mark at the position and thus more likely to fall to the later rounds.
His performance in Indianapolis doesn't necessarily erase the concerns about his size and durability, and unless a franchise determines that the potential reward is worth the risk, it's likely that Thomas will have to wait until the third round or later to hear his name called this coming spring.
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