However, is an upright runner who exposes too much of his body between the tackles. Allows defenders to easily get into/under his pad level and needs to do a better job running behind his pads. Isn't the most sudden or shifty of backs and routinely gets too long/overextended with his footwork, failing to consistently keep his feet under him and maintain proper balance.
Has the ability to cut against the grain, stick his foot in the ground at full speed and side step a defender in space. However, he isn't shifty enough to make a man miss in tight quarters and create for himself behind the line. Doesn't exhibit a great first step when asked to press the hole and seems to only have one gear to his game. Struggles to get back up to speed quickly out of his breaks and isn't going to outpace anyone to the edge at the second level. Can catch the football out of the backfield and looks natural in the pass game.
Impression: 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."
Outside: Lacks breakaway speed and is a better north-south runner than east-west, but covers a lot of ground with his long strides once in the open. Also has a bit of wiggle to freeze and shoot by oncoming defenders in the open field. Keeps the ball in his right hand on most plays, needs to switch to left more consistently. Gets pitches to the outside, capable one-cut or jump-cut runner who plants and drives into the hole. Only adequate vision but can find lanes on the run when heading outside, and flashes the ability to cut back against the grain to make a big play. Usually keeps the ball high and tight, but his long arms make it easier for defenders to strip him if he holds the ball loose when trying to make a move (four fumbles, three lost in 2009; 7-4 in 2010).
Breaking Tackles: Gives good effort to get through tackles whether pounding inside or running in the field. Bounces off piles or when fullback is stuffed inside, gets the corner to get extra yardage. High stepper who will run through cut and arm tackles. Strong stiff arm. Takes defensive backs for a ride when downfield. Will lose his balance when trying to make cuts or shake and bake in space. May not have enough speed to avoid NFL defenders as easily as he does against college talent.
Blocking: Could be very strong in pass protection, but will be a liability until he puts in more effort. Keeps a strong base and moves well laterally to mirror linebackers and defensive ends when focused. Likes to be physical, but too often that means he throws a shoulder into an oncoming defender, failing to sustain so his man can join the play. Gets in the quarterback's way on occasion being hesitant in protection in the pocket. Is strong on the outside against cornerbacks when lined up at receiver, but needs to give more consistent effort. Acts as fullback on delay quarterback draws, but likes to throw a shoulder instead of using his hands to move linebackers out of the hole. Rolls out with the quarterback as a personal protector; willing to hit but is too easily pushed aside by linebackers.
Receiving: Reliable receiver on screens, in the flat, and even lines up at split end. Uses his length to adjust to poor throws and hands to snatch the ball from the air outside his frame. Presents a big target for quarterbacks on screens, finds open spaces if there is traffic inside. Moves downfield to take advantage of attacking defenders when quarterback scrambles to his side. Lines up at split end on occasion, becomes a size mismatch on the outside but is inexperienced running routes at that spot and is rarely challenged at the line of scrimmage. Most routes are rounded off, must learn to run more crisp routes and sell them more emphatically.
Intangibles: Team leader despite being a JUCO transfer. Teammates appreciate his toughness, played through pain in his left shoulder most of 2009 but still led the conference in rushes. Academics were a major issue for Thomas, so scouts will be curious if he can learn complex NFL offenses."
Thomas has the ability to succeed in the NFL.
Thomas put up impressive numbers the last two years at Kansas State, including 19 touchdowns in 2010, showcasing his “do it all” ability, and proving he has the talent to fit into an offense and excel at the next level. A strong combine will only further that belief.
Thomas is a no nonsense runner. He has a big, solid frame that can absorb punishment and inflict it, allowing him to run effectively in between the tackles. His speed is solid, but his athleticism can really be seen in his hips, as he’s a very fluid and natural runner. While not a burner, Thomas can give defenses major problems in open space, as he possesses the elusiveness to get past linebackers and the toughness to bull-doze anyone in the secondary.
Has a good injury history and hasn’t had a ton of work at the college level (two seasons), so he should have plenty of miles to give at the next level. Has experience as a receiver, but doesn’t have elite hands. Overall, he’s the complete package as a runner, without the dazzle effect.
Thomas can appear too stiff at times, and will enter the 2011 NFL season at 24. He’s not ancient, but since the average age of the average NFL player’s career is under 30 years old, teams won’t like that number. His tough running style and lack of elite speed will combine with the age factor to form three significant knocks that NFL scouts may not be able to look past.
His below average hands and weak route-running ability will also figure into his draft stock. His effectiveness as a power runner at the next level will likely be in question, as well, as his frame isn’t necessarily the norm for his running style. Will need to bulk up a little more to handle the beating at the next level, but more than anything will need to improve his leg strength, as most of his power appears to be generated from his upper body.
Thomas has some credible knocks, but overall he is a fine runner and capable of progressing into an every down back at the next level. Most of his short-comings are able to be corrected with hard work and discipline. Good, smart runners who can run in between the tackles and move the way he does are actually quite rare, and while he doesn’t have that extra gear scouts look for, he still has all the makings of a quality runner in the NFL. All of this combines to project him to go somewhere in the second or third round.
NFL Player Comparison: Ryan Mathews"
Positive: Strong, downhill runner who is best between the tackles. Displays good vision, is patient, and finds the opening in the offensive line. Runs north/south, keeps his feet driving up the field, and aggressively drives his shoulders into defenders. Quickly readjusts off the initial hit, immediately gets back to playing form, and falls forward when tackled. Picks up a lot of yardage off initial contact. Works his way on the inside and will pick and choose his spots. Displays solid running vision. Flashes the ability to quickly get around tackle.
Negative: Displays minimal burst and speed. Runs with an upright style. Has struggled with hamstring problems throughout the off-season.
Analysis: Thomas made a major impact when he arrived at Kansas State two years ago and has been one of the better ball carriers in the Big 12 ever since. He possesses the size and strength to be a feature runner in the NFL but must really improve the details of his game and show durability to be a consistent threat."
Negatives: Runs too upright, will be prone to injury... Would like to see him wrap the ball up better when fighting through trash, too often he leaves the ball visible to defenders... Taller running backs seem to wear down quickly in the NFL... Will be a 24 year old rookie... Lacks explosion, is more of a slow twitch runner, may struggle shaking tacklers at the next level... His upright running style gets him knocked off balance too easily and it allows him to be pushed backwards far too often... Running style and frame are comparable to former Colorado Buffalo Chris Brown who had a very short NFL career."
Weaknesses: Very raw and needs polish on his game. Is occasionally too patient and will wait for blocks rather than exploding through holes. Lacks stopwatch speed, though he's rarely caught from behind. Has little understanding of route running as a receiver, and little technique as a blocker, particularly in pass protection.
Projection: One of the nation's top runners likely will be downgraded due to deficiencies in pass protection (first), route-running ability (second) and a lack of straight-line speed (irrelevant as I see it). Doesn't have the complete game to start from day one, but will work very hard and should be a very special player a year or two down the road, perhaps Pro-Bowl level. A steal as a late-second, early-third round pick."
Kansas State fans and NFL scouts wanted to see if Thomas could continue that success during his senior campaign. Through six games, the answer is an overwhelming yes. Thomas has increased his yards per carry average from 5.1 as a junior to 5.4 as a senior and has made seven trips to the end zone. Thomas has proven that he can carry the load and at 228 pounds, he has the size to be a bruising back in the NFL.
Thomas, who played quarterback in high school and a little bit in junior college, is a smart and tough player who has had to carry the Kansas State offense and done a very good job of it. When all is said and done, Thomas should be a second or third round selection and one of the safer running backs in this class. He may not be quite as explosive as some others, but he is an every down back."
Thomas is the only legitimate offensive weapon the Wildcats have, and most defenses know where the ball is going, yet he still has been able to crease them. Some evaluators have been so enamored with him that they have stamped late first-round grades on Thomas, but his lack of foot speed likely will push him down a round or two."
Daniel Thomas is a solid Bruiser ~ an Hard Yard Masher who runs with a good deal of Power. And he has some Vision, Patience, and Instincts. But he runs too high, has limited Lateral Agility, and I'm afraid that he might get killed in the NFL, if he tries to play full time.
He's also a pretty poor Blocker, though a pretty useful Receiver.
In my efforts to organize RB's by their styles, I've invented the terms "Smashers", "Slashers", + "Thrashers" as what I hope will be easy references, respectively, to Power Backs, 3rd Down Backs, and Hybrids.
Daniel Thomas is most certainly a Smasher.
Too risky for anything but a very late Round Pick, in my view, and yet he'll probably go in the 2nd or 3rd.
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