Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians isn't afraid of taking on a challenge when it comes to the quarterback position. He'll get exactly that in the form of Logan Thomas. The Virginia Tech product possesses plenty of potential, but there's a lot of work to do.
The good news for Thomas is that he probably couldn't enter a better situation. The Cardinals have an entrenched veteran starter in Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton to back him up. That will allow him to focus completely on development while working with a true quarterback guru in Arians.
Most importantly, it removes the pressure of potentially having to start as a rookie, which he's simply not ready to do. If the Cardinals went through a quarterback injury crisis, they would be better off signing a veteran free agent than giving Thomas the reins right away.
And working with Arians is a blessing for the developmental prospect. The 61-year-old coach has worked with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck, all of whom enjoyed plenty of success under his tutelage.
After his first season as the starter at Virginia Tech, when he threw for 19 touchdowns and rushed for 11 more while completing nearly 60 percent of his passes, Thomas was viewed as a future top prospect.
That outlook obviously changed considerably by the time his college career came to an end. The Cardinals ended up taking him in the fourth round with the 120th overall pick:
Ultimately, it's a classic situation that's repeated several times throughout every draft. Thomas has all the tools to become a very effective player in the NFL, but there's no guarantee that natural talent ever turns into actual production at the next level.
The Virginia native features prototypical size (6'6", 248 pounds), the arm strength necessary to make any throw and solid athleticism. It's a skill set that would intrigue any quarterback coach.
On the flip side, he wasn't able to match his breakout sophomore campaign during his final two years with the Hokies. His completion percentage tumbled, his touchdown total dropped and his interceptions rose. Not a favorable combination, to say the least.
ESPN Stats and Info points out that Thomas' total QBR over the last two seasons left a lot to be desired:
QB Logan Thomas to the Cardinals. Thomas had a 47.6 Total QBR in his final two seasons at Virginia Tech (50 is average) #AZpick— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 10, 2014
While accuracy is definitely an issue, a lot of the problems seem to come from his lackluster decision-making ability. Once defenses adjusted to him after that single promising season in college, he never seemed to get comfortable again.
That's where working with Arians should really help him. The longtime coach will help Thomas understand how to read defenses, both before and after the snap, so he's in a much better position to deliver passes on time with the necessary precision.
It's an effort Thomas seemingly wants to put in as well. Darren Urban of the team's official site passed along comments from the draft pick, who remains confident in his chances of succeeding at the position:
Logan Thomas: "I am 100 percent confident (I can play QB)." Said he's made huge improvements this offseason with George Whitfield.— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) May 10, 2014
He certainly possesses the size and athletic ability necessary to succeed at another position, but that would be a significant project too. Instead, Thomas will work with Arians in hope of finally showcasing the potential he put on display as a collegiate sophomore on a regular basis.
Make no mistake, he's never going to become Tom Brady, Drew Brees or the aforementioned Manning as a pure passer. But Thomas' other skills make it so that he doesn't need to dominate from the pocket. He just needs to become more reliable as a passer, especially on third down and in the red zone.
Looking ahead, Palmer is probably going to remain the starter in Arizona for one or two more seasons, depending on his 2014 performance. And, as mentioned, the Cardinals are wise to have a veteran backup in place behind him during that time.
What does Thomas' long-term future hold?
The task for Thomas is using that time as an understudy to soak up as much information from Arians as possible. If he can start understanding defenses better and use his game time in the preseason to make progress, he should at the very least be in the starting conversation by 2016.
Thomas is a boom-or-bust prospect. There's a chance he never becomes a productive quarterback at the next level. But working with Arians maximizes his chances of success, and there's also a potential position change if not enough progress is made over the next few years.
Just don't be surprised if Thomas finally reaches his sky-high potential despite all the skeptics.