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Scouting Report: De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon

Scouting Report: De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon

A lot of talent in a little package
By: Pete Davidson : April 23, 2014 8:37pm

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De'Anthony Thomas, also known as The Black Momba or DAT, is one of the most talented players in the 2014 draft class. We started watching Thomas back in 2011 when he was playing for former Oregon HC Chip Kelly. De'Anthony had a season of collegiate eligibility remaining in 2014, but did the smart thing and entered this year's Draft as a junior. He has very little left to prove as a college player and even less to gain by putting his body at risk.

I sat down with Thomas at the Combine this year and he was a very nice, very accommodating young man. He bristled a bit when I spoke of him playing less running back at the next level. To his credit, he said all the right things. “I feel like I’m a playmaker and I just like to contribute. I feel like I’m a great team player and I just want to make plays for my team. I can play receiver. I can play running back. Kick return. Punt return. I just want to contribute.”  

In fairness to Thomas, he played a varied role at Oregon and was often used as a receiver.  He may self-identify as a running back and that's probably something he wants to continue to do.  Regardless of whether De'Anthony is a running back, receiver or hybrid, he seems ready to do what needs to be done, and, as I said, that's nothing new. His role at Oregon has always been a diverse one and he’s always excelled whether as a receiver, runner or on special teams.

Thomas answered all the questions we hurled at him with class and a smile. He told me that he learned a lot from Chip Kelley and that “he’s a great coach. I appreciate him for everything he’s done for me.” He also told us about the genesis of his nickname. “Snoop Dogg gave me the nickname. I grew up in the Snoop Youth Football League growing up in Los Angeles. My first game against his team, we blew them out 52-0.”  Snoop dubbed him “The Black Momba” after the shellacking and the name stuck.

Let’s take a look at Thomas’ Combine and Pro Day Numbers.

Combine:

  • Height - 5’9”
  • Weight - 174
  • Hands - 8 /18”
  • 40 - 4.50
  • Bench - 8
  • Vertical Jump - 32”
  • Broad Jump - 124”

De'Anthony ran his 40 again at Oregon’s Pro Day and the official time was 4.39 with reports of faster times as low as 4.34.

Let's take a look at some of the positives we see with De'Anthony.

  • Speed - The Pro Day time confirms what we see on film. Thomas is a track star as well as a football player and his speed is very real.
  • Cuts - The Momba makes crafty cuts that separate him from a lot of ball carriers and he does it with a smooth style that makes it seem almost effortless.
  • Vision - Thomas sees the field very well and uses that vision to make some of the cuts I spoke about.
  • Patience - He uses his blockers well and does not force the issue. He’s been well coached and it shows. De'Anthony reminds me of Marcus Allen in this regard. He has a great feel for the game.
  • Big play ability - The speed, cuts, vision and patience all add up to big plays, and that’s what Thomas brings to the table in all phases of the game. He’s not as adept at breaking tackles as some of the bigger backs, but he can at times, and when he does, it usually leads to a big play.
  • Versatility - This is the key to Thomas’ future. He needs this part of his game to translate to the next level. This is a player who can affect the outcome of a game in numerous ways as I said. He’s a home run hitter as a return guy and a hybrid option on offense.
  • Physicality - While his measurables say he is not very physical, and while he does get felled by a lot of arm tackles, Thomas is good at defending his frame from would-be tacklers with an occasional spin move and a very good stiff-arm.
  • Production - Thomas was a player who squeezed the most out of his touches in all three years at Oregon. His yards per rush was just short of 8 per carry, and his average reception went for 11.5 yards. He also found the end zone 45 times as a collegian. Pretty impressive considering the level of competition he faced. 

Here’s a look at Thomas versus Virginia last season.

You see him get bottled up easily a few times and he can’t push the pile like a big back, but just look at his burst on the second touchdown. That’s the speed we’re talking about and the athleticism to keep himself in-bounds for the score. You can see the effortless cuts and you can see the way he uses his blockers to set up his runs.

 

Here’s a look at games versus Fresno State and California in 2012. You can get a good look at some of Thomas’ receiving ability here.

Some players just make the game look easy and Thomas is one of them. If not for his lack of heft, Thomas could be a first round talent ... not to say he would be taken there these days, but that’s how much ability this kid has.

The transition Thomas needs to make is not as dramatic as it would be for some smaller backs because Thomas has already been a multi-weapon at Oregon for the last few seasons. You saw it on the tape you just watched. This kid is used to lining up all over the field and he’s used to motioning into the backfield and taking the handoff. The big questions will be about his durability, which is obviously a concern at 174 pounds, and him finding the right offense for his varied skill set.

Placing a fantasy value on Thomas before knowing where he'll play is very difficult, because he has so many different things that could appeal to an NFL team, and that includes the return game. If DeAnthony slips far enough, he could go to a team that views him as a kick returner more than an option from scrimmage. He could also go to a team that envisions him in a Darren Sproles role or a Randall Cobb role. We’ll just have to wait and see.

One thing I do know is that Thomas could have a whole lot of PPR appeal in the right situation. His size and lack of a clear role makes him a shaky option in dynasty and other long term formats, but that could change a bit if he’s taken by the right team.

I’ll firm up De'Anthony’s value in our post-draft Rookie Reports. 

 

 

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