After taking a month to review the 2013 NFL Draft, it is already time to look ahead to the 2014 class. In fairness, I will do my best to focus on senior prospects for the next few months and move to juniors/redshirt sophomores when the time is right. I am only taking pre-season evaluation notes for now, focusing on where prospects win and where improvements can be made. Therefore, treat these posts like rough drafts and not final opinions.
Notes for Clemson QB Tajh Boyd
Notes for San Jose State QB David Fales
Notes for LSU QB Zach Mettenberger
Notes for Miami (FL) QB Stephen Morris
Notes for Georgia QB Aaron Murray
Notes for Fresno State QB Derek Carr
Notes for UNC QB Bryn Renner
Notes for Cornell QB Jeff Mathews
Few (if any) prospects failed to reach expectations in 2012 to the degree as Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas. Off the heels of Cam Newton’s NFL rookie campaign, many evaluators likely saw some similarities in the duo’s game, but Thomas proved to be much less of a finished prospect than anticipated. How much of that is the quarterback’s fault, or can some be attributed to the system and surrounding cast?
Like many of the quarterbacks I have evaluated thus far, Thomas is asked to work from center, shotgun, and pistol sets. The Hokies do mix up personnel sets and formations fairly well, but nothing should be too complicated for the signal caller. A mix of play action, zone read, and standard vertical to short section targets combine for Thomas’ responsibilities, so evaluators will get a good look at his footwork and effectiveness in relation to each.
Or should I say ineffectiveness.
Thomas is very light on his feet in his drops, almost striding on the tips of his toes rather than animated steps. Arguments can be made on either side, but quarterbacks must be comfortable and confident in their footwork. In fact, a lot of Thomas’ game looks pretty before the ball leaves his hand, giving the impression of refinement.
“Flash” is a common theme in Thomas’ game. Pocket movement and poise is no different. There are situations where Thomas hits his back foot, steps forward to avoid an edge rusher, and hits his second target on a crossing route with proper timing and placement. However, the vast majority of plays don’t exude patience and poise. Whether falling away from pressure, not sensing free rushers, drifting to the edge of the field against an unimposing pass rush, or tucking the football like runner when climbing the pocket, Thomas has a ways to go to be a consistently successful pocket passer.
I infrequently mentioned accuracy while writing up other senior passers, mainly because I believed it was a given that every NFL prospect-worthy quarterback possessed at least adequate placement and precision. That is not the case with Thomas. I saw him frequently miss high on checkdowns, crossing routes, outside breaking patterns and numerous other targets. I saw throws skip off the ground to stationary receivers and ones which forced them to break stride and come to a complete stop. Sure, we can all find 10 plays where Thomas looked like a great thrower within 15 yards, but on a snap to snap basis he is not a talent an NFL team could win with right now.
Thomas is easily at his best when working downfield. That is not surprising, since those splash plays are one of the primary reasons he was highly regarded in the first place (along with his frame and pre-release appeal). Thomas is an effortless downfield thrower, able to put loft under passes or throws ropes against gaps in zone coverage. Most of this success comes on a first read, popping off his back foot and releasing a bucket throw against single coverage, similar to Mike Glennon’s from the 2013 class. He tended to test vertically less often once moving from his spot, and when Thomas did his shoulders tended to stay wide open.
As expected, Thomas’ eyes can be slow when working through progressions. He’s not a quick mover, but Thomas is asked to make plays with his feet and flashes toughness and determination when finishing.
Where He Wins
This is the first time I have struggled with a category. Thomas throws a pretty downfield pass as a first read against single coverage. These situations allow for the receiver to create separation and win their individual matchup. Many will still be intrigued by Thomas’ pre-release charm, size, and athletic upside.
Areas Of Improvement
Thomas needs to become an adequately accurate passer. Despite his motion and frame giving the false impression of a fluid passer, Thomas’ placement is all over the map. In fact, if Thomas missed in the same spot on every throw perhaps the solution could be an easier fix (he is reportedly altering the way he throws to the left side of the field) but even his inaccuracy is inconsistent. The whole package is beyond frustrating.