I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.To read more about the 2016 NFL Draft Project, Click Here.
Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State - 6'3, 210 - RS Junior - #3
Almost everyone and their brother agrees that LaQuon Treadwell is far and away the best wide receiver in this 2016 class of draftees. But, from there, it seems to be what my draft mentor has always told me - "What flavor of ice cream do you like?" Which simply means, in the draft game, there aren't always right or wrong answers about how you rank the next group. Rather, it is a question of whether you personally prefer strawberry or vanilla. It is a matter of preference or taste and while we put all the wide receivers into the same bin for easy designations, we all are certainly aware that every wide receiver has different specialties and roles on a given team. Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley are both wide receivers, but they do things about as differently as you can do things and have wildly different roles where the team would never consider one of them to fill in for the other one. The two play the same general position, but there is nothing "the same" about them.
So, as you look at this class of Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson, Will Fuller, Michael Thomas, and others we have not done yet like Sterling Shephard, Braxton Miller, and Pharoh Cooper you can see a host of names in the top 50, but where they are stacked will depend completely on what a team feels it needs. Who is the second best WR will depend entirely on who is doing the shopping, because there is a star or two in this group (history shows), but so much of that will depend on circumstances.
Thomas is part of an absolutely loaded offense at Ohio State that has won 25 of their last 26 games and would certainly have a claim for the best program in the country these days. Ezekiel Elliot, Miller, and Thomas will all be in the Top 50 of this draft as skill position players and therefore all benefit each other by attracting defensive attention and favorable matchups for all involved. We must remember that this stacks the odds in the favor of these players and may not be the case at their next destination. But, for now, you can see why slowing down the Buckeyes offense was a very rare accomplishment, despite the QB chaos that existed.
What I liked:Thomas is a very large 6'3, 210 and plays well with this large frame to create space for himself and always get an inside position. He has a solid catch radius and like some of the better possession receivers we have seen (like his uncle Keyshawn Johnson) does not allow a defensive back to reach around him to knock the ball away very often. But, to call him a possession receiver does not account for his ability to get deep and to shake off a corner with a move after a short catch. There is plenty here to indicate he is a very complete receiver that may not dominate in one department but perhaps does all things pretty well across the board. He is a bear to try to tackle once he catches the ball and does play with a proper mean disposition when he has the ball in his hand. I also like the way he sets up his routes with some sharp movements. I am not suggesting he runs the full route tree, but the routes he does run are well done most of the time to ensure an easy catch position. He also is great at inducing a pass interference with positioning as well. His technique is very solid.
What I did not like:He certainly does not have a top gear that will terrify defensive backs. If they can deal with his moves at the top of the stem, most NFL corners will be fine making sure he doesn't get behind them very often as he lacks a little juice. Also, you will see an amount of body catching, but nothing significant. With blocking downfield he will at least go through the motions, but he is no Treadwell in trying to rack up a body count. He is OK but not fantastic in the aerial game on the level of Josh Doctson or Corey Coleman.
Summary and Potential Fit For the Cowboys: Thomas is yet another Buckeye who will be highly coveted on draft day, and it will be up to the particular teams in mind to sort through whether they are looking for a home run hitter or a Swiss army knife type. If they want that guy who can do everything pretty well, Thomas could get the call even in Round 1.
He is certainly one who stands to gain by putting up a great 40-time in the Combine, but either way his tape stacks up pretty well as the guy you want on your side on 3rd down to run slants, drags, and comebacks to move the chains and to keep the drive rolling down the field. In Dallas, he may perhaps be a bit redundant with Dez's style, however, you could also argue you can never have too many weapons and another big, physical receiver could further a long day for any defense.