Logan Thomas Being Fastest Combine Quarterback Doesn't Guarantee NFL Success

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2014

Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas throws during a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Logan Thomas is a fluke in the human genetics pool. He's massive, strong-armed and incredibly quick for someone his size. He's a chiseled Ben Roethlisberger with Cam Newton's speed and a Colin Kaepernick arm. 

From a physical standpoint, there is no more gifted quarterback in the 2014 NFL draft. Thomas made that much apparent over the weekend in Indianapolis, excelling in the physical drills at the combine and leaving scouts once again buzzing about his potential.

The former Virginia Tech quarterback recorded the fastest 40-yard dash among quarterbacks at 4.61 seconds, along with bests in the vertical jump and broad jump. Only Johnny Manziel topped his 20-yard shuttle time, and only three signal-callers were better in the three-cone drill.

Every feat of athleticism ended with Thomas gaining that colored-in blue star on his NFL.com page, denoting a "top performer."

For any quarterback, it would have been a performance that gained scouts' attention. For Thomas, a 6'6", 248-pound behemoth with nearly 11" hands, it was proof positive of what we've known all along: He possesses freakish natural gifts. 

The performance also did little to quell the concerns about his ability to play on Sundays. 

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

If that refrain sounds familiar, that's probably because you've heard it once or 87 times previously. For years, Thomas has looked the physical part of an evolutionary Newton. As a sophomore at Virginia Tech, he threw for 3,013 yards and 19 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, completing a solid 59.8 percent of his passes. He added in 469 yards and 11 scores on the ground for good measure. 

The plaudits in the aftermath of Newton's ascent in Carolina were numerous. Thomas was considered not only a potential Heisman winner but a can't-miss professional prospect who might wind up being the top overall selection in 2013.

That obviously has not happened. Thomas' junior and senior seasons were mired with inconsistencies and struggles, as his downfall was nearly as quick as his rise among NFL scouts. That sophomore campaign wound up being his peak in Blacksburg, as he had a 34-29 touchdown-to-interception ratio over his last two years and saw his rushing splits drop down as well. 

Twelve times over the past two seasons, Virginia Tech's offense scored fewer than 20 points. Football Outsiders' advanced metrics ranked the Hokies offense No. 85 in the nation last season and No. 75 in 2012.

Thomas isn't entirely to blame for those struggles—quarterbacks often take way too much credit for a good offense and vice versa—but he didn't help matters. 

Thomas isn't a "project," as he will be called by some scouts. He's almost a complete rebuild.

Everything from his throwing motion (too long) to his footwork (entirely inconsistent) needs an overhaul before he can be considered a serious threat to start in the NFL. He and receivers rarely were on the same page with route reads and when to expect the ball. And while Virginia Tech isn't a hotbed of receiving talent, Thomas' ball placement just wasn't good enough to create a consistently effective offense.

The most concerning facet of his game was his lack of progress. Despite bluster from Blacksburg about improvements, Thomas never progressed the way anyone expected. His footwork especially looks like someone new to the position—not someone who started three years at a major college program. Short and intermediate routes, staples of every offense in today's NFL, were often an adventure filled with balls thrown too hard or with placement not conducive for yards after the catch.

Coming into the combine, the concern about his progress as a quarterback was so great that many wondered about a change of position. His size and speed profile fits well with a switch to tight end, but thus far he has been unwilling to entertain moving from under center. 

“I just disregard [changing positions] right off the top, really,” Thomas told The Washington Times' Zac Boyer. “I said, ‘I’d probably just tell you, ‘No, thank you. I’ll just take my chances elsewhere.’”

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

NFL draft history is littered with physically talented quarterbacks who figured it out. It's also littered with young players who were unwilling to change their position and exited early as a result. 

On one hand, Tim Tebow refused to entertain moving to tight end, and now he's wearing a suit for ESPN. On the other hand, Michael Robinson was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2005 at quarterback but made two different position switches (first to running back and then to fullback), and he's now a Super Bowl champion.

The NFL is full of uber-talented players who made a sacrifice to elongate their careers; the streets are full of ones who didn't. It's not an indictment of Thomas that he's unwilling to move at this point. He believes in his talent, thinks he can help a team and has all the physical tools in the world to get it done. 

Steve Helber/Associated Press

“I’m still pretty raw, but I still have that ability to go out there and dominate,” Thomas said. “We’re stoked to see what happens. I know I’ll be one of the best out there one day. I’ve just got to keep working on what I do.”

Still, his time at Virginia Tech should have been proof enough that raw ability can't get it done. The real work will go on behind the scenes.

Tebow, for all of his inherent flaws, was a relentless worker who probably extracted every last drop of his talent. Thomas, while he is by all accounts a great kid, hasn't nearly done the same.

And as Bleacher Report's Matt Miller pointed out, Thomas' 40-yard dash time and athletic splits aren't going to stop the calls for him to make a position switch:

It goes without saying that a position switch is no guarantee to success, either. Thomas, unlike Robinson, wasn't moved all over the field in his collegiate days. He has been and will be drafted as a quarterback—likely to a team with a quarterback guru who believes he can harness Thomas' otherworldly physical skills.

In the NFL, that's what freakish physical tools give a player: a chance. Maybe two. If Thomas struggles to develop as a quarterback, perhaps a third chance will be in order with a position change. 

Either way, his combine performance didn't tell scouts anything they didn't already know. He is a fluke in the human genetics pool. He's massive, strong-armed and incredibly quick for someone his size.

But can he play?

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