De’Anthony Thomas is what’s referred to as a pure speed player. He may have been the fastest player in college football and is a threat to score any time he touches the ball.
In the ground game, he needs to run in space. He’s not equipped to run between the tackles and would be better off in a zone-blocking system and attacking the perimeter. He can be a very dangerous runner, but at the NFL level would best be used in plays designed to get him to the corner.
As a receiver—where he’ll likely be used in the NFL—he’s a mismatch with the speed to stretch the field. He’s shown the natural ability necessary to develop as a receiver, and his route-running and hands—while they could use more refinement at the next level—suggest he has the ability to play slot receiver as a pro if necessary.
It should be noted that Thomas’ immediate impact might be felt in the return game. His quick first step and lateral quickness make him an elite returner. He averaged nearly 26 yards per kick return, and 17.1 yards per punt return during his three years at Oregon, in addition to returning five for touchdowns.
Durability is the biggest concern with Thomas, for few players his size have been successful at the NFL level. If he’s to stick, he’ll have to be used intelligently and show the ability to stay healthy for extended periods of time.
Ultimately, Thomas is the type of player that could sneak his way into the first-round, but his stock will eventually be determined by his performance at the combine. His athleticism makes him capable of putting up eye-popping numbers in the speed and agility tests used at the combine, and if he shows the ability to run quality routes and catch the football, he could be this year’s Tavon Austin.
He could be one of the bigger/exciting mysteries in this NFL draft.