2014 NFL Draft Scouting Profile: Oregon Running Back De’Anthony Thomas

@eatdat6

@eatdat6

PERSONAL

  • Name: De’Anthony Marquies Thomas
  • Nicknames: The Black Momba, DAT, DATMAN
  • Position: RB/WR/KR/PR
  • Height: 5’9″
  • Weight: 173
  • Twitter: @1stclassmomba Instagram: @eatdat6
  • Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
  • Birth date: January 5, 1993
  • School: University of Oregon

STATISTICS

Year

Touches

Yards

YPT

TD

2011 Totals

140

2,235

15.9

18

Rushing

55

595

10.8

7

Receiving

46

605

13.2

9

Kick Return

36

983

27.3

2

Punt Return

3

52

17.3

0

2012 Totals

166

1,757

10.5

18

Rushing

92

701

7.6

11

Receiving

45

445

9.9

5

Kick Return

16

389

24.3

1

Punt Return

13

222

17.1

1

Stats compiled from ESPN.com.

STRENGTHS

DeAnthony-Thomas-Touchdown-Rose-Bowl-2012

Speed

College football is filled with numerous speedsters, but Thomas is a step, no pun intended, ahead of the competition. Thomas spends his springs pacing Oregon’s track team, but he spends his falls winning tack meets to the end zone.

With a confirmed 4.38 40-yard dash, as well as an unverified 4.29, Thomas is one move from helping the Ducks mascot stay in shape. On some plays, defenders seemed as if they couldn’t even see him until they noticed a blurry name on the back of an Oregon uniform.

On the defensive side of the ball, proper pursuit angles are almost as important as sure tackling. Against Oregon, defenders can take any angle they wish. Thomas simply outruns angles and with a grace that makes a ballerina look stiff.

Watch one clip of Thomas and it’s obvious that he is the fastest person on the turf.

@eatdat6 in 2011 Rose Bowl.

@eatdat6 in 2011 Rose Bowl.

You can’t hit what you can’t touch, and you can’t touch what you can’t catch. Defenses have become accustom to chasing Thomas, and once a defender sees the back of that No. 6 Ducks uniform, he won’t see Thomas again until the next possession. Six points.

Acceleration

Go.

That’s about as long as it takes DAT to reach full speed. He goes from zero to sixty faster than Dominic Toretto’s 1970 Charger RT.

Enough said. Next topic.

Agility

Not only does Thomas have legitimate track speed, but “The Black Momba” is also as shifty as, well, a black mamba.

When Thomas totes the rock, there is no wasted movement. He only moves laterally as much as he needs to get north and south and to the painted grass.

There are too many plays that showcase Thomas’ lateral agility on the football field, and this is what makes him most dangerous. He can make a potential tackler miss in a jail cell or a phone booth. He could probably make an All-American miss in the back seat of a Prius.

DAT tip toes the sideline while eluding a defender. Credit: @oregonducksedits

DAT tip toes the sideline while eluding a defender. Credit: @oregonducksedits

He is that gifted. He is that athletic. He’s like catching water—in your hand but never in your grasp.

Receiving skills

The only thing worse than a running back that can make a house call on any carry is a running back that can do the same thing in the receiving game.

@1stclassmomba displaying his abilities in the passing game.  Credit: @oregonducksedits

@1stclassmomba displaying his abilities in the passing game.
Credit: @oregonducksedits

Thomas has great hands out of the backfield and can make some difficult catches in traffic.

He is also an apt route runner for a running back. Although his route tree is limited at Oregon, he possesses all of the physical attributes required to develop far beyond his current abilities. He has the quickness to get in and out of his breaks and the speed to gain separation on pursuers, and if he is asked to run a nine route, Thomas can flat out fly past defenders vertically.

Special Teams

Thomas is the epitome of a four-down player, and Thomas put the country on notice during his freshman season: Do not kick the football to No. 6.

Credit: SBNation DAT in 2012 Fiesta Bowl.

Credit: SBNation
DAT in 2012 Fiesta Bowl.

Special teams’ coaches have caught on. Although Thomas is the Ducks primary kick returner, he was only able to return 13 kicks, and he wasn’t taking touchbacks. Teams flat out refused to kick the ball near him. He didn’t even register a return until the fifth game of the season, which shows the type of respect Thomas has from opposing coaches. Teams decided they would rather let Oregon’s high-octane offense score in three plays than let DATMAN score in one.

Against Colorado this past season, Thomas broke every rule for punt returners. He let the ball bounce in front of him. He retreated towards the ball after it hit the ground and picked it up while running towards his own end zone. He then went 70 yards for a touchdown (more on this play in a bit).

Coaches are supposed to believe in their players, but it is hard to have faith when Thomas is standing alone deep.

Thomas even successful lobbied to play the gunner position on punts, so he is certainly game for any special team task.

Open-field running

The only thing scarier than De’Anthony Thomas running around in a football helmet is Jason running around in a hockey mask.

Thomas only needs the smallest of holes to press and exploit. Credit: @oregonducksedits

Thomas only needs the smallest of holes to press and exploit. Credit: @oregonducksedits

Watch a Thomas highlight reel. He makes defenders look silly when he has room to do his thing. Defenders try. They reach, lunge, dive and miss. Thomas makes defensive backs look as if they’re trying to guard Allen Iverson one on one.

If Thomas is one on one in the open field, no one in college football is going to take him to the ground. Ask Washington State safety Tyree Toomer.

Vision

There are times it seems as if Thomas has seen the play before it happens. That football premonition separates the great backs from the good ones because a player can’t use his speed unless he finds space to run.

Gale Sayers, one of the greatest backs to ever buckle a chinstrap, once said that all he needs is 18 inches of daylight. Sayers was blessed with incredible athleticism, but his ability to interpret the chaos, locate the weakness and exploit it was legendary.

Thomas only needs about twelve inches. Sayers was three inches taller and 25 pounds heavier than Thomas is. Although his size can also be perceived as a detriment, it can become a positive when he is weaving through traffic. Every Pop Warner running has heard his coach tell them to “get small.” Despite his upright, track-like running style in the open field, Thomas gets small when the situation calls for it.

Another component of vision is patience. Anticipating the gap is one thing, but without the internal wherewithal to let the play develop and use his blockers, a back can’t showcase his skills.

Back to that punt return against Colorado, which is the only play an NFL scout needs to see to know that Thomas can make a difference on the next level. After flaunting his disregard to all the governing laws of punt returning, Thomas cut all the way across the grain, jump cut to a complete stop, allowed his teammates to get hats on hats and hit an extra gear that few human beings have 70 yards to pay dirt.

Versatility

The Black Momba can line up in the backfield. He can play in the slot and even split outside in certain packages, and he can strike from both return spots. He has the tools to even play corner in emergency duty. USC did recruit his as a defensive back.

As has been already mentioned, Thomas is a four-down player. He can do anything a coach asks of him on the football field.

 Toughness

For a man that is probably smaller than your postman, Thomas is a tough individual. He is in no way a power runner nor is he going to break too many tackles, but he is not shy of contact and is capable of getting his knees high and running through arm tackles.

He trucked a Fresno State safety in the hole on his way to a 51-yard gallop to the finish line. He also took a middle screen in the Fiesta Bowl for a touchdown while fighting the last four-yards through three Kansas State defenders that included 2nd-round draft choice Arthur Brown.

Thomas fights for tough yards in the Fiesta Bowl.

Thomas fights for tough yards in the Fiesta Bowl.

His body is simply not capable of becoming a heavyweight, but it certainly doesn’t mean that he will walk away from a fight.

WEAKNESSES

Size and Strength

Although team front offices are realizing how valuable undersized players with special skill sets are (see 8th-overall selection Tavon Austin), teams will undoubtedly have conversations about Thomas’ size and durability.

As outlined in the previous section, Thomas is not going to strong arm anybody in the NFL. He is going to struggle to create yards after contact in a league with faster, stronger players.

He has never missed a game at Oregon, but that is no indication of how his small frame will hold up against the punishment NFL running backs endure. A team may have to give Thomas a play-count.

If he can gain 10-15 before the draft process, while maintaining his speed and agility, he will see his stock sky rocket.

Pass Protection

Thomas shouldn’t be on the field if a team his planning on using him as a pass protector. In third-and-long situations, he will either be running a draw, a screen or releasing into a route—if not, he will be watching from the sideline. Even if he has the heart to get in there, he is no match for a blitzing Patrick Willis.

Pass protection is as much mental as it is physical, and Thomas hasn’t really been asked to handle these duties at Oregon, so it is yet to be seen how he will grasp NFL protection schemes.

Thomas also missed a block downfield in Oregon’s only loss in 2012. With quarterback Marcus Mariota in the midst of a huge pickup, Thomas seemed to let a defender run right past him to make the stop. Had Thomas made that block, Oregon would not have kicked a field goal early in the game and may have been playing Notre Dame for the National Championship.

Ball security

Thomas has good ball handling technique (switching to his outside hand and for the most past covering up the football with two hands in traffic), but he still has a problem coughing up the football. He may just lack the strength to put enough pressure on the football to protect it from some players.

The reason that ball security is last on this list is because it can be corrected with coaching. We saw Tiki Barber go from fumbling the ball regularly to not fumbling the ball at all.

UNKNOWN

Workload

It is yet to be seen how much of a load Thomas can carry because Oregon has never really featured its dynamic playmaker. He has never been a starter for the Ducks despite being one of its most dangerous weapons. Thomas may not even start this season after the departures of LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner in the last two years because of the presence of sophomore Byron Marshall and freshman Thomas Tyner.

This has nothing to do with Thomas being less talented than any of these players. I would actually argue that he is the most talented of them all. It seems obvious that the Ducks’ coaching staff is protecting its small, yet very big, gun. They must believe that he can’t handle a substantial touch count because there is no other reason that he should only be averaging slightly more than ten touches per game.

PRESEASON SCOUTING REPORT CONCLUSION

Thomas is the most electrifying, dangerous man in college football today. He can add instant offense and big-play ability to any team in the NFL. Having a player like Thomas offers an offensive coordinator the opportunity to open and expand his playbook.

De'Anthony Thomas at the finish line after the Fiesta Bowl's opening kickoff.  Credit: @oregonducksedits

De’Anthony Thomas at the finish line after the Fiesta Bowl’s opening kickoff.
Credit: @oregonducksedits

Offenses can labor for ten to fifteen plays on scoring drives at times. With a player like De’Anthony Thomas, he can take a bubble screen at the line of scrimmage for six. His defense may not appreciate the short rest, but they will certainly be grateful for the points.

If Thomas was 5’11” and 200 pounds, he would more than likely hear his named called within the first hour of the Draft. Aside from his size, Thomas has everything a player needs to make an immediate and immense impact. All he needs to see are a few blades of open grass to make a defense pay.

DAT is a one-mistake player. One mistake by the defense, and it is already too late.

NFL PLAYER COMPARISON: DeSean Jackson

Think the running back version of DeSean Jackson.

De’Anthony Thomas possesses many of the same traits Jackson did coming out of Cal. He has all of the speed and open field ability that Jackson has, though he is not close to as polished as a receiver.

Thomas is, however, a more physical runner than Jackson.

I also contemplated Jamal Charles and Jahvid Best for this comparison but felt the size similarities made Jackson an adequate comparison.

Pictures from De’Anthony Thomas Instagram @eatdat6

Videos from nfldraftscout.com, youtube.com, and live broadcasts

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