ESPN draft expert Todd McShay released his latest mock draft earlier in the week. It was a three round mock with the Lions selecting Prince Amukamara and Bruce Carter in the first two rounds, two players we’ve already profiled on this site. His pick for the Lions in the third round brought a new name into the discussion, Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas.
Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State
Weight: 230 lbs.
Arm Length: 32 3/8 in.
Hand Size: 9 in.
Bench press: 21 reps
Thomas the combination of size, strength, burst and vision to become a solid NFL starting running back. A lot of his production comes in-between the tackles, picking his lanes, bursting through the hole, staying behind his pads and finishing runs by falling forward for additional yardage. Good in short yardage and goal line situations. Has enough agility to shake some defenders, get the corner and get upfield but isn’t a true home-run threat. Does a very good job in pass protection but may never become a difference-making pass-catching option at the next level. Thomas carries a second round grade and could contribute immediately.
Daniel Thomas only participated in the bench press at the combine and a series of muscles ailments in his legs have prevented him from running the 40-yard dash more than once for scouts. He reportedly ran that one try in the low 4.6 second range; fast enough to find a role in the NFL but not fast enough to be considered explosive. His inability to stay healthy enough for draft evaluation is as far as the injury concerns go, however. Thomas started every game in his two years at Kansas State after transferring from a junior college. He originally committed to Florida out of high school but academic issues forced him to go the JUCO route.
Kansas State listed Thomas at 6’2″ but he measured out as closer to 6′ at the combine. That won’t be as important to teams as his 230 pounds (228 at the Kansas State pro day). He has the size to be the physical back the Lions need and his height and weight are nearly identical to Mikel Leshoure, a prospect the Lions have already brought in for a pre-draft visit.
The Lions will be looking for a back to compliment Jahvid Best rather than to come in and become their featured back. They need a tough inside runner that doesn’t mind a physical style of play. It sounds like Daniel Thomas could fill this need based on the portion of his CBSsports.com scouting report that focuses on inside play:
Strong inside runner with a very good lean, always falls forward when wrapped up or chopped down. Nice spin move to come off tackles inside, pick up an extra yard or two. Presses the line and is very effective on quick-hitters. Adequate selling ball fake inside, but could lower his shoulder and play with more urgency. Combines his strength with enough elusiveness to avoid getting caught in the backfield, but is not elite in this area. Plows ahead to move the pile. Does not own exceptional vision, but more often than not will pick his way through trash inside. Secures the ball in close quarters.
Their observation that he secures the ball in close quarters may help to relieve fears that arise when reading the “competitiveness” portion of the ESPN scouting report:
Keep legs moving after initial contact and fights for extra yardage. Consistently finishes runs falling forward. However, it does not appear that he loves contact. He frequently runs like a 200-pound scat-back. Ball security is a significant concern, as well. Fumbled on 1.84 percent of his career offensive touches, one of the worst of the ‘draftable’ running backs in the 2011 class.
There is a lot in there not to like. ESPN grades Thomas as “below average” in that category but still ranks him as the fifth best back in the draft, the same as CBS. He grades out as “average” or “above average” in all other categories that ESPN grades.
The noted deficiencies hurt Thomas a lot more in the positional rankings on the National Football Post big board. He ranks as the 18th running back in the class and their profile ends with the following:
A big, physical back who runs hard and exhibits the vision to set up blocks and pick his way through traffic. However, he isn’t a real impressive athlete, runs upright and will have a tough time averaging 4.0 yards per carry at the next level. Looks more like a physical backup type runner to me who isn’t dynamic enough to start in the NFL.
Daniel Thomas brings some things to like and some things not to like. The question is, how much will the Lions like him overall?