Michael Thomas, WR
School: Southern Mississippi | Conference: CUSA
College Experience: Senior | Age: 21
Height / Weight: 6-1 / 200 lbs
Projected Draft Status: Fourth round or later
NFL Comparison: Michael Crabtree
A big, strong receiver who absolutely broke out in his senior season, Michael Thomas is a tough player to peg. If he had put up the production he did in 2015 in the SEC, he'd be in consideration for a first-round pick — Laquon Treadwell led the SEC with 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns. But he didn't. He put up those ridiculous numbers in the CUSA, where he didn't lead the conference in any major statistic.
Nonetheless, Thomas went from a virtual no-name to a possible mid-round pick thanks to a monster 2015 season. He is an impressive but not incredible combination of size and speed, having run a 4.53 40-yard dash at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, and he is solid in all facets of the game. He runs decent routes, he has good hands and he's exceptional after the catch, even though his juking ability is nothing to write home about. He simply has a knack for getting things done as a receiver, and it's tough to say if that will translate against bigger, faster athletes.
- Thomas excels in just about everything the Redskins would like to add more of. He's built well and plays bigger than he measures, and he could immediately provide another red-zone target to complement Jordan Reed.
- He isn't especially fast, but he has a knack for making big plays, with his 19.6 yards per reception good for the third best in the CUSA last year. He finds a seam in his route, and he does a great job avoiding would-be tacklers after the catch. And it doesn't hurt that he can make the occasional spectacular catch.
- Thomas doesn't always catch the easy ones away from his body, but he has clamps for hands and snatches balls out of the air when he needs to.
- His production has only increased with time, going from 592 yards and five touchdowns in 2014 to 1,391 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015, and he ended his senior season with a touchdown in each of his final 10 games (after none in the first three games). In fact, his final game, a bowl game against Washington, was his best — he caught nine passes (tied career high) for a 190 yards (career high) and a pair of touchdowns.
- Thomas offers some help in the kick return game, having returned 41 kicks for 936 yards (22.8 yards per return) and one touchdown.
- The guy goes up for everything. Passes that he has no business getting a hand on will go from catastrophic errors by the quarterback to near-completions thanks to his desire to catch every pass near him.
- Thomas is going to slide down draft boards for two main reasons, and the biggest and most detrimental is the quality of competition. He played at Southern Mississippi, where he had big outings against teams like Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Washington (though this was a bowl game, and the final game of his college career) and Louisiana Tech.
- The second reason is his production. His numbers is 2015 are eye-popping, but he's done nothing else worth draft consideration throughout his career, having transferred from junior college before submitting less than 600 receiving yards in his first season at Southern Mississippi. On the one hand, he certainly seems to be trending upward. On the other hand, it's wholly possible the one spectacular season was simply a fluke.
- He is built to be a useful blocker, and he has the right attitude to help out in the run game, but he must improve his technique — considerably. He looks completely lost at times, often doing this weird thing where he runs about 15 yards out to the defensive back, then simply stops in front of the opposing player and waits for contact. Not surprisingly, the defender typically runs around him without much hindrance.
- Thomas too often lets balls get to his body. He has the ability to make every catch with his hands, so it's definitely something he can work on, but it's a problem right now.
- He always looks to be one of the best athletes on the field, but that almost definitely won't be the case in the NFL.
How He Would Fit on the Redskins
Well. He would fit well. The great thing about a player like Thomas — that is, one with great natural abilities and a visible desire to succeed — is he can immediately contribute in certain aspects of the game, specifically in the red zone. The Redskins desperately need a big receiver, both now and for the future, and Thomas would provide that. Perhaps most important for Thomas: He could fulfill his role as a spot contributor in goal line and Hail Mary situations, and perhaps on kickoffs, without being asked to do too much.
With only two years of mediocre collegiate ball under his belt, he will need time to adjust to the NFL game. If he can come in a receive a dozen targets or so as a rookie, he ought to be in good shape to take over a meaningful role in 2017. No, he probably won't be a No. 1 receiver any time soon, but a scenario in which he fills a Pierre Garcon in 2015 role is conceivable.
Of course, he has one noteworthy year in the CUSA as virtually his entire resume as a football player. I don't predict it will be the case, but there is a very real chance that he spends his NFL career on practice squads.