Summary: From a physical-talent perspective, Thomas has the best skill set of any quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft. Considering he has the tools yet is considered a third-day pick, one knows that his college tape and performance had to be poor.
That wasn't always the case. After Thomas' debut as a sophomore starter, he was viewed as a potential No. 1-overall pick and franchise quarterback. Thomas put his big skill set on display as he racked up points and yards for the Hokies. Thomas set the school record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in 2011, running for 627 yards and 11 scores. The first-year starter completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,013 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
As a junior, Thomas was one of the biggest disappointments in college football. He had an ugly 2012 that illustrated terrible passing accuracy. Thomas completed only 51 percent of his passes for 2,976 yards with 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He ran for 726 yards (524 net) and nine touchdowns, but his passing was horrific at times.
Thomas completed 57 percent of his passes in 2013 for 2,907 yards with 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He had 344 yards with four touchdowns on the ground, too. The senor showed some improvement in his accuracy and decision-making, but not enough to rebound his draft stock.
On the positive side, Thomas has the tools to do anything on a football field. He has big size, a strong arm and good running ability. Quarterback coaches at the Senior Bowl said that Thomas' arm was clearly the strongest one in Mobile as his ball cut through the wind better than the others. That included Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo and Tajh Boyd. If Thomas developed his accuracy and decision making in the NFL, he could be a true dual threat quarterback similar to Cam Newton.
On the negative side, Thomas' accuracy can be dreadful. He gets in stretches where he struggles to make simple throws. Thomas also is prone to some bad decisions like throwing the ball into coverage and forcing passes. Those problems led to some ugly interceptions. Thomas has a lot of kinks to work out of his game in order to be considered a viable option as a starting quarterback.
The team that drafts Thomas needs to put in some developmental time and believe in him as a 2-3 year project. He'll need stability in the coaching staff, too. If Thomas doesn't turn into a starter, he could be a decent backup.
Player Comparison: Josh Freeman. Thomas won't go in the first round like Freeman did, but Freeman should not have been a first-rounder. The former Buccaneer has a great skill set, but displayed natural inaccuracy and poor decision-making in college. The inaccuracy was disguised in two seasons, 2010-2011, but that and turnovers led to Freeman being a bust for Tampa Bay.
Thomas has the same flaws and great skill set that Freeman does. In the NFL, Thomas could flash his abilities, but unless he makes huge improvements, he'll be a quarterback comparable to Freeman who struggles with inaccuracy and turnovers.
NFL Matches: Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Arizona, New England, Green Bay, New Orleans, Tennessee, St. Louis
Thomas is really an option for all 32 teams in the NFL on Day 3. Any team that drafts Thomas is going to view him as a developmental project. Some teams with elite quarterbacks could consider drafting Thomas to groom as a backup and hope maybe one day he has made enough strides to be considered a viable starter or trade bait.
The Texans, Jaguars, Browns, Raiders and Vikings are all in need of a franchise quarterback. Tampa Bay could also have interest in Thomas depending on how the new regime feels about Mike Glennon. The Arizona Cardinals could also groom an heir apparent to Carson Palmer.
New England and New Orleans could draft Thomas on the third day on the potential that he could become have the successor to their respective Hall of Fame quarterbacks. The Packers were hurt by their backups in 2013, so Thomas could be brought in as backup competition.
The Titans (Jake Locker) and Rams (Sam Bradford) both have young quarterbacks who are in make-or-break seasons. Either team also has more important positions to address on the first and second days of the 2014 NFL Draft, so either Tennessee or St. Louis could consider drafting Thomas as a high-upside backup to groom.