Kansas State Senior
Has nice size and strength as a runner. Shows some power to break tackles and run over defenders when he can get downhill. Has nice speed and burst to the hole. Can break the big run because he's a long strider. Shows good shiftiness and elusiveness in teh open field. Can make the quick jump cut and has the laterabl burs to bounce plays outside. Sets up defenders on the edge and can beat the defense to tehe corner. Is patient and shows vision to find the cutback lanes, and can sneak through seams between the tackles with his quickness. Has nice hands, and a good natural feel as a receiver out of the backfield and working in the flat. Willing to take on defensive linemen straight up in pass protection. Athletic, former quarterback that works out of the wildcat and is an effective passer there.
Has tall frame and needs to probably get stronger in the lower body. Doesn't really run behind his pads. Tends to try and juke and make guys miss rather than running over defenders. Isn't really a threat to run over most NFL defenders, whether it's linebackers or safeties. Will stop his feet upon contact and doesn't do a good job finishing runs. Needs to improve his ball security as he doesn't position it against his body when he gets out in the open field.
Thomas has good athleticism and skillset to be an everydown runner. But he's still fairly raw and is not as physical a runner as you'd expect with a player his size. His potential is high, but he could be a boom/bust guy. A two-year starter at Kansas State that carried the load both years, combining for 545 carries for 2850 yards (5.2 avg) and 30 touchdowns. Also caught 52 passes for 428 yards (8.2 avg). He also completed 7 of 12 passes for 155 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. A JUCO transfer that only moved full-time to running back once he got to K-State, after being a dual threat QB at NW Mississippi CC, a role he played in high school as well.
I can't help but be a little nervous about Thomas because I'm not sure of many guys that weren't running backs in high school and much of their college careers who have made the successful transition to the NFL at that position. The player I keep thinking of is T.J. Duckett, who was a quarterback in high school before he moved to running back at Michigan State. And while Duckett was a productive college runner, he never really showed the natural instincts that it takes to be more than an average NFL running back. Thomas might be the same. But unlike Duckett, he's not slow to the hole and a plodding runner. Thomas has explosiveness to his game, but his playing style is more like a 200-pounder than a 230-pounder. And that playing style is probably not going to project to the pros as well as it does in college. When you can't run over quality 205-pound safeties at the collegiate level when you weigh 230 pounds doesn't bode well for you at the next level when you're going up against 225-pound safeties and 250-pound linebackers. So Thomas is going to have a hard time breaking tackles at the next level, so he'll have to rely on his speed and quickness. And without having that foundation of playing running back for the past 10 years like so many others, he may not have the natural vision and instincts to really excel there. When he's at his best, he reminds you of a Fred Taylor or Adrian Peterson-type runner. Again, he's not as physical as those guys, but he has the sort of size/speed combination that have made those two players very good if not great NFL rushers. Durability hasn't been an issue yet, but he doesn't have a great body to last at the pro level. PLays like Taylor, Peterson, and Darren McFadden that are solid, but have more of that taller, leaner build have struggled making it through 16 games. So I would not be surprised if the same applies to Thomas. The best situation for him is probably going to a team that will use him to split reps with another player, particularly a guy that is better between the tackles. So he might have to start off as a change of pace back. He should be able to be solid on third downs because he has the size to match up in pass protection, and is gaining more experience there, and is a good receiver. I think he can be a good pro, but I think the chances of that happening increase if a team brings him along slowly. I think his NFL career path will probably be similar to someone like Darren McFadden. Which has been OK in Oakland because they've had players like Michael Bush and Justin Fargas to get them by as they've waited for McFadden to progress. If you expect him to carry your load right from the start, then I think you're probably setting yourself up for disaster.
Thomas can work in Atlanta because he has the size potential to be a guy that can carry the load, but also give the team added value in the passing game. I think he can get better as a power runner, but I don't think it's going to be a huge part of his game. But he's like a more explosive Jason Snelling. He can be as valuable as Snelling is in the passing game, and with his speed to break the long runs, he is a guy that can be capable. The issue he'll have in Atlanta is whether or not he can be trusted to pick up the tough yards between the tackles on 3rd & 1 or 2nd & 2. Snelling has those same issues. So I think as far as the Falcons concerned, he projects better as a No. 2 than a true No. 1 like Turner is. He could come in and potentially as a rookie take over for Snelling as the top backup because of his potential to break longer runs, but I'm not sure that will happen because he's still developing. Instead, he's more likely to be a guy that can start taking Snelling's reps in 2012 and beyond. Whether not he develops as the No. 1 guy down the road is a question mark, and while he has a chance to be that, I just wouldn't bet a ton of money on it.
Thomas has first round potential due to his athletic tools, but because he's still fairly raw as a runner, he's much better value in the late second or third round of the draft.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Scouting reports of the running backs and fullbacks in the 2011 Draft.
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