Kansas City has their new (and improved?) Dexter McCluster on the roster.
With the 124th overall pick in the draft the Chiefs took De’Anthony Thomas, a combo running back/wide receiver from Oregon. In the moment, this is a hard pick to knock. Here are two write ups on Thomas.
Without question, Thomas is the most electric player in the 2014 draft. He boasts remarkable elusiveness, instant acceleration and the speed to pull away from defenders to make him a legitimate threat to score each time he touches the ball. Shows good vision, locating holes and slithering through them to get into the open field.
Has soft, natural hands for the reception, easily snagging passes and securing them quickly. Tougher than he looks, showing a willingness to lower his shoulder and fight through initial contact to gain as much yardage as possible.
Offers the versatility to play several roles, potentially freeing up a roster spot due for other players.
Thomas is a simple evaluation as he is a pure speed player. He may be the fastest player in college football and is a threat to score any time he touches the football.
In the ground game, Thomas needs to run in space. He isn’t a pound-it-between-the-tackles type of runner and doesn’t get a lot of yards after contact. If Thomas is used too much running between the tackles, he could easily come down with injuries. Thomas would be better off in a zone-blocking system and attacking the perimeter. Spreading out the field and giving Thomas space to operate makes him a dangerous runner.
As a receiver, Thomas is a mismatch with the speed to burn cornerbacks. He has shown natural pass-receiving ability for a running back. His route-running and hands are developed. could use more refinement for the NFL, but he could have the ability to be a starting slot receiver as a pro if he is deemed too small to play tailback.
Thomas should also be used as a kick and punt returner. He has the ability to be a dangerous weapon on returns.
The clear spot to put Thomas is in the McCluster role. Like McCluster, Thomas is a small guy with a ton of athleticism and the ability to create big plays for an offense and on special teams. The difference with Thomas is he has better pure speed and far more experience playing wide receiver than McCluster did coming out of college. The transition to the NFL should be much easier for Thomas than it was for McCluster since he is not learning a new position.
Where we’ll find Thomas’ immediate impact is on special teams, where Thomas will be an absolute nightmare for opponents. Dave Toub completely changed the way the Chiefs’ played special teams last season with new blocking schemes and better strategy. This season he’ll have a better weapon at returner with Thomas, which is crazy to think because McCluster was an All-Pro returner last season.
For a fourth round pick and given Kansas City’s need for playmakers on offense, John Dorsey and company get an A- on this one.