The Kansas City Chiefs drafted Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas in the fourth round of the NFL Draft Saturday, giving them a talented offensive player that will be asked to replace Pro Bowl kick returner, Dexter McCluster, who left the Chiefs via free agency during the off-season.
Thomas (5-9 174-lbs), played collegiately for the offensive juggernaut Oregon Ducks for three seasons and scouts universally call him one of the most “electric” players in the draft. According to NFLDraftScout.com, he boasts “remarkable elusiveness, instant acceleration and the speed to pull away from defenders to make him a legitimate threat to score each time he touches the ball. Shows good vision, locating holes and slithering through them to get into the open field.”
Thomas will likely get the first chance to take the slot receiver role McCluster played in KC. As a receiver, which will be critical for him playing for Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, Thomas has “soft, natural hands for the reception, easily snagging passes and securing them quickly. Tougher than he looks, showing a willingness to lower his shoulder and fight through initial contact to gain as much yardage as possible.”
Thomas leaves Oregon in the conversation as the best all-purpose player in school history. His 5,345 career yards rank #3 all-time behind Oregon legends LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner, with whom Thomas teamed in the Ducks' most recent Pac-12 championship season of 2011. Thomas holds Oregon records for kickoff return yards (1,885) and punt return average (17.1), and he's fourth in career scoring (278 points).
Thomas, much like Kansas City’s third round pick, cornerback Phillip Gaines, ran track in college, which became evident in his 4.4 time in the 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine. Thomas anchored the 4x100-meter relay that advanced to the 2012 NCAA Championships and ran the sixth-fastest time in school history, 39.89 seconds.
Thomas will be given every chance to replace McCluster in 2014 and considering the biggest knock on the Oregon back is that he lacked the build and size to handle a full work load as an NFL running back. The key to keeping Thomas on the field will be limiting his touches to 10-15 per game, including returns. The difference is that, with his speed and elusiveness, Thomas has the chance to score from anywhere on the field.
The Chiefs next draft picks are the #163 overall pick in round five and then they will finish their draft with two sixth-round picks, #’s 193 and 200 overall.
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