Former University of Oregon standout De’Anthony Thomas presents a very interesting case to NFL scouts. Thomas, aka the “Black Mamba,” is undoubtedly an explosive player who could impact a team on both offense and special teams.
While at Oregon, he racked up 46 total touchdowns and helped lead his Ducks to wins in the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl in 2012 and 2013.
Despite his storied career, Thomas remains low on CBS Sports' draft board due to his 5’9’’, 174-pound frame. Let’s take a deeper look at the speedster’s play and his future in the NFL.
Speed is how Thomas will make a living at the NFL level. During his days as a Duck, Thomas showed time and time again that he was capable of scoring whenever he got his hands on the football. Whether it was on offense or on special teams, Thomas had a knack for finding the end zone.
In a highly anticipated 40-yard dash, Thomas underwhelmed NFL scouts at the combine when he ran an official time of 4.50, 10th overall among running backs.
What is encouraging is that Thomas ran an unofficial time of 4.34, a mark that would’ve been one of the fastest among all players.
While the 40-yard dash certainly did not go as Thomas envisioned, his stock should not drop based on that time. Scouts understand that Thomas has been one of the fastest players in college football over the past three years and 4.50 seconds should not change that.
“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,” said Oregon’s running back coach Gary Campbell via Andrew Greif of The Oregonian.
The ability to play multiple positions is definitely a plus for Thomas. He ended his career at Oregon with 26 rushing touchdowns, 15 receiving touchdowns, four kick-return touchdowns and one punt-return touchdown.
What does this show? Thomas is capable of playing all over the field.
Thomas has drawn similarities to St. Louis Rams receiver Tavon Austin. Although Austin is a more pure receiver than Thomas, they both have very similar styles of play. Austin is 5’8’’, 176 pounds and was a versatile threat for the Rams as he had four receiving touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and a 98-yard punt return for a score as well.
Scouts should look at Austin as an example of the player Thomas could be at the next level.
Whichever team drafts Thomas will get a player who can be utilized at several spots on the field. Whether it’s as a running back, slot receiver or return man, Thomas will give a team a lot of flexibility.
Thomas is a home run threat waiting to happen. He had 15 plays for at least 40 yards throughout his career at Oregon, including two kick returns that exceeded 90 yards.
Explosiveness out of the backfield? Check.
Breakaway speed as a return man? Check.
Ability to catch the ball and burn past opponents? Check.
Is Thomas’ big-play potential enough to convince NFL scouts to draft him?
If Thomas has one knock on him it is that he is undersized. One NFL scout said that “size and durability will be his issues, but he would be a kick returner, punt returner and slot wide receiver/running back. He’s pretty unique,” per The Oregonian's Greif.
Players like Darren Sproles, Danny Woodhead and Trindon Holliday have all had success in the NFL despite none being taller than 5’8’’.
Can Thomas prove that size doesn’t matter and become a playmaker at the next level?
Although Thomas may be one of the most athletic, explosive and versatile players coming out of the draft, I don't see him being taken before the 5th or 6th round.
He had success at Oregon as a running back but does not have the size and durability to carry the ball 15-20 times a game at the NFL level. A team could draft him as a slot receiver but that would take some development as that was not his true position in college.
Where do you think Thomas gets picked in the draft?