Scouting the RBs: De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon

dthomas3De’Anthony Thomas will be a polarizing prospect as the 2014 NFL Draft season unfolds.  Some will see him as a dynamic offensive weapon that lacks a true, natural position.  Others will express confidence in his ability to be a running back in the NFL, and there will be a collection of analysts that view him strictly as a slot WR.

Thomas was the top athlete in the 2011 high school class (Rivals), and brought a sprinter’s speed to the Oregon Ducks’ backfield.  He made an immediate impact as a freshman, earning the Pac-12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year award.

Thomas’s 2013 season has been impacted by a nagging ankle injury (causing him to miss several games) and his production has dipped as a result.  That said, Thomas still has rare athletic traits that will trump the box score during the evaluation process.

The following is FRG Scouting’s evaluation of De’Anthony Thomas.

NAME:        De’Anthony Thomas
Pos:              RB
HT:               5’9″
WT:               169lbs
40:                4.39 (EST)

Strengths:           Speed, Quickness, Athletic Ability
Weaknesses:      Size, Strength,  Durability

Standing 5’9″ and weighing around 170lbs, Thomas is undersized for the RB position…Blessed with blazing straight-line speed, Thomas is a threat to score every time he touches the ball in the running, passing and return game…Can get to the edge and turn the corner on outside running plays in a hurry…Adequate change of direction to compliment his blazing speed…Good enough wiggle to keep a defender second guessing…Very good route runner and receiver out of the backfield; could line up and play slot WR on next level…Asset on special teams in the return game; will instantly become one of the most dangerous return men in the NFL.

Thomas lacks the bulk and overall strength to be an effective runner between the tackles in the NFL…Lacks the necessary lower body strength to get yards after contact in the pros…Lack of size and overall strength will make him a liability as a pass protector…Ankle injury is a concern, as his diminutive stature is already an injury risk vs. NFL defenders.

De’Anthony Thomas will not be a feature back in the NFL, and he won’t be drafted with that as an expectation.  He will be a true “offensive weapon” that the creative offensive coordinator will use to his advantage.  Thomas will likely make his biggest impact in the passing and return games where is elite speed can be used in space.  Thomas will be able to outrun even the fastest NFL defensive players, and will certainly have his fair share of “wow” moments during his career.  That said, he’s going to be limited to packages and plays designed to get him in space, limiting his ability to consistently make the kind of impact that you’d like to see from a high draft pick.  His athleticism and speed alone warrant an early-Day 3 pick.

GRADE:  6.2 (Mid-low 4th round)

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