The NFL Scouting Combine can be a place where careers take off or where they go to die.
For De'Anthony Thomas, mediocre results didn't exactly help his draft stock, but he still has time to make up for it.
A 4.50 40-yard dash is spectacular for a defensive end like Jadeveon Clowney, but it doesn't stand out for a running back. Especially when guys like Dri Archer are going out on the field and delivering a 4.26 40 time.
Seen as a gadget player or a one-trick pony as a return man, the combine was supposed to be a place where he solidified his spot as one of the the fastest backs in the draft.
Needless to say, Thomas needed a strong showing to skyrocket up draft boards and prove his doubters wrong. He didn't get it, but it's not the end of the world for the explosive back from Oregon.
First, let's start by looking at the positives for Thomas. Coming into the combine, Ducks running backs coach Gary Campbell knew that Thomas might not blow scouts away with his 40 time but said he was much better with pads on, per Andrew Greif of OregonLive.com:
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.
Here's a "fanslation" of what Campbell is trying to say: Watch the game film.
Thomas was a star with the Ducks and compares well with another running back that didn't exactly set the world on fire at the combine just last year.
Will Thomas shine at the NFL level?
Giovani Bernard came out of North Carolina with a lot of question marks about his skills and his past injuries. But he was a return specialist with the Tar Heels and sat at the top of the class when it came to running backs thanks to that ability.
After a 4.53 40-yard dash, Bernard didn't have a memorable performance at the combine. But when he got in pads for the Cincinnati Bengals, all was forgotten as he came up just short of the NFL Rookie of the Year Award in 2013.
This is not to say that Thomas can come in and blow up defenders like Bernard did, but a 40 time in no pads shouldn't be a crushing blow for any athlete. While his 4.50 time wasn't as impressive as others, Joe Marino of BuffaloBillsDraft.com notes that he showed off his speed in other drills:
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
Regardless of how much stock scouts and coaches put into Thomas' 40-yard dash at the combine, he still has a chance to prove them wrong at Oregon's pro day.
What he does there will likely be scrutinized as well, but he has already proven his worth during his time with the Ducks. With just a few tenths of a second shaved off at his pro day, Thomas can prove to scouts that he just had a poor day at the combine and will shine in the NFL.
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