Tech WR Thomas has talent, but he needs time

A physical talent? Absolutely.

A potential starting-caliber receiver at the next level? We’ll see.

A first-round pick in my book? No chance.

When you look Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and his pure physical measurables paired with his stats, he might look like one of the draft’s top “paper prospects” – a prospect evaluated on paper alone with no game-tape evaluation taken into account.

Thomas is a 6-3, 224-pound wideout who has been rumored to run in the high 4.3 range and finished the 2009 season with 1,154 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging over 25 yards per reception. That right there is on heck of a resume for any wide receiver prospect, but what might be even more impressive is the fact Thomas played in pretty much a run-only triple option attack where he had just a couple balls thrown in his direction each game. So with all his physical attributes and production why am I so scared for Thomas as a prospect?

Well, first and foremost you’re getting one of the rawest route runners in this year’s draft. Now, he does run with good power and does a great job locating the football and going up to make the catch. However, any time this guy is asked to run even a simple curl route, he didn’t show me the type of body control to stop on a dime and separate back toward the football. Consistently, you see a guy who is forced to gear down, chop his feet and regain his balance while trying to create any kind of separation for himself vs. man coverage. Other then the nine, curl and corner route, on tape I haven’t seen the guy run much of anything else. So when you get Thomas into an NFL camp, you’re going to have one of the real project receivers in the draft.

The second concern I have is his lack of ideal suddenness and initial burst as a receiver. There have been reports that prior to his foot injury Thomas was running in the sub 4.4 range. However, what you have to remember with a receiver like Thomas is that he’s a big, powerful strider who, once he gets up to speed, has the length to stride away from defenders down the field. But what stands out to me is inability to reach top-end speed quickly and really accelerate out of his breaks when asked to quickly change directions. At 6-3, 224 pounds, Thomas has the size and power to simply out-physical opposing college defensive backs and beat press coverage off the line. But I worry about his ability to get off press and into routes vs. the bigger, more technically sound corners in the NFL. And even when he does get into his routes, I have some reservations about his ability to really sink his hips and generate a clean burst out of his breaks on sharper routes in order to gain separation.

Finally, the fact that he came from a triple-option offense and has never really seen any of the types of looks he’ll get from an NFL secondary is another concern I have, as Thomas was consistently asked to only beat man coverage on the outside with little to no help over the top. So he had plenty of room to operate down the field, didn’t have to be detail oriented with his routes and really never had to think about a safety making a play on the football. This might seem minor, but it’s just one more facet of the game in which Thomas will be a step behind compared to just about any other wideout who gets drafted.

Don’t take this the wrong way. I think Thomas has plenty of upside and the talent to mature into a very good NFL receiver with time and development. However, the idea that you take a project like Thomas in the first round just doesn’t make sense to me.

In my opinion, Thomas has some real Vincent Jackson-type qualities to his game. And like Jackson, Thomas is going to need time to mature into a quality NFL starter.

However, unlike Jackson, there have also been plenty of physically impressive, yet immensely raw wide receiver prospects with tremendous upside (Tyrone Calico, Ashley Lelie, Matt Jones, Mike Williams) who have all failed to live up to expectations in the NFL.

When breaking down Thomas, I tend to look at him as an investment. Risk vs. reward.

At what point in the draft does this guy’s upside outweigh his bust potential? In my opinion, with the talented crop of receivers in 2010, that point doesn’t start until the third round.

But hey, that’s just my take.

Follow me on Twitter: WesBunting

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