The University of Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas is unquestionably one of the most explosive players in the 2014 NFL draft. Despite that, he is still on the board entering Day 3.
Thomas is far from a perfect prospect in that he is small (5'9" and 174 pounds), and he doesn't have a defined position between running back and wide receiver. But thanks to his blazing speed, Thomas makes things happen with the ball in his hands, and he could be an asset to almost any team.
The likelihood of a player panning out in the fourth round and beyond is fairly low, but Thomas is worth gambling on since his floor is that of an excellent return man.
With the final day of the 2014 NFL draft approaching, here are three teams that figure to be heavily involved in the Thomas sweepstakes.
New Orleans Saints
Few teams have done a better job of utilizing dynamic players on offense in recent years than the New Orleans Saints. Head coach Sean Payton is one of the most creative offensive minds in football, and there is no question that he could do some special things with an athlete like Thomas.
Since quarterback Drew Brees excels at getting speedy players the ball in space, New Orleans could be the ideal locale for Thomas. There also happens to be an open lane to significant playing time for Thomas with the Saints since they recently parted ways with a similar player.
With Sproles now in Philly, NFL.com's Dan Greenspan views New Orleans as a great fit for a burner like Thomas:
After cutting Darren Sproles, I'd put the Saints on shortlist of teams likely to draft Oregon RB/WR De'Anthony Thomas.— Dan Greenspan (@DanGreenspan) March 8, 2014
With the No. 126-overall selection in the fourth round, the Saints are in position to secure Thomas if they so choose. While New Orleans could use some depth defensively and already took an offensive player in the first round in wide receiver Brandin Cooks, Thomas is too good of a scheme fit to pass up.
If Thomas is still there in the fourth round, don't be surprised if the Saints strike.
The Washington Redskins didn't make their first selection in the 2014 NFL draft until the second round, but they proceeded to fill some needs on Day 2 by taking Stanford pass-rusher Trent Murphy and Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses. With those situations addressed, the 'Skins can afford to get creative on Day 3.
With quarterback Robert Griffin III another year removed from knee surgery, Washington should have a much more explosive offense this season. That is already a near guarantee with wide receiver DeSean Jackson now in the fold and with the likes of receiver Pierre Garcon, tight end Jordan Reed and running back Alfred Morris.
Seemingly all the pieces are in place for the Redskins' offense to return to prominence, and a gadget player like Thomas can possibly add another dimension to the team as well.
RG3 and Thomas could do some special things together in terms of option plays and screens that will keep opposing defenses honest. A player with speed like Thomas will only serve to open things up even more for Jackson, Garcon and others.
On top of that, the Redskins were dead-last in kick return average last season at 20 yards per return. Thomas would make a huge difference in that regard, making all three phases of Washington's team a threat.
Washington has the second pick in both the fourth and fifth rounds, so Thomas will be a strong possibility at either of those spots.
The Philadelphia Eagles may not have a big need when it comes to electric running backs and wide receivers, but the fit between them and Thomas is obvious. The Eagles have arguably the most explosive offense in the NFL, and Thomas would add to that reputation. Additionally, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly previously coached Thomas at Oregon.
Although the Eagles did release Jackson, they selected Jordan Matthews in the second round of the NFL draft. Philly also acquired Sproles from the Saints. Add in the returning presence of the NFL's leading rusher in LeSean McCoy, and it is blatantly clear that the Eagles boast an extremely fast offense.
Even so, Kelly could be enticed by a dynamic player whom he knows well. According to Ross Jones of FoxSports.com, Thomas feels as though Kelly will target him if he drops to a certain point:
De'Anthony Thomas on Chip Kelly: “If someone doesn’t pick me up early, he’s definitely going to sneak up and get me." http://t.co/fIskogNfTT— Ross Jones (@RossJonesFOX) May 5, 2014
Thomas is clearly a big fan of Kelly and the feeling was reciprocated during their time together at Oregon, per Jones.
Chip Kelly personally taught me the whole offense. I had one-on-one meetings with him every day. He was my coach. You know how people have different position coaches? Well, my coach was the head coach. Pretty much a lot of people didn't like that because they would think that De'Anthony had favoritism or De'Anthony can do whatever he wants, but that wasn't my decision.
Nobody in the entire draft is more familiar with Kelly's style of offense than Thomas, so the learning curve wouldn't be too steep.
Which team is most likely to select De'Anthony Thomas on Day 3 of the 2014 NFL draft?
The one thing that might prevent the Eagles from taking Thomas, though, is the fact that they selected Oregon receiver Josh Huff in the third round. It isn't out of the question that Philly could double up on Oregon offensive threats, but that pick presumably decreases the likelihood that Thomas lands with the Eagles.
If Thomas becomes too good of a value to pass up, however, he could be on Philadelphia's radar if he is still there in the fifth round.
The thought of Thomas, McCoy and Sproles all in the same offense is an exciting one for Eagles fans. Also, Thomas would add even more sizzle to Philadelphia's return game.
It all comes down to whether or not the Eagles are interested in bringing in more skill position players. If they are, then Thomas has a shot to reunite with his former coach.
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