After being drafted as a quarterback in the fourth round of the 2014 draft by the Arizona Cardinals, Thomas found himself struggling to stick on a roster midway through the 2016 season, bouncing between the Dolphins and Giants practice squads. That’s when he made the position change, playing tight end for Bills (2017-2018) and Lions (2019) before landing in Washington. The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder enjoyed a breakout year in 2020, posting 72 catches for 670 yards and six scores. Thomas accounted for 36 first downs while settling in as a reliable target between the hashes. The strong performance validated the opinions of scouts who had long viewed tight end as a good fit for the former Virginia Tech QB.
Thomas earned a four-star rating from 247Sports as a 6-foot-5, 220-pound pro-style quarterback in high school. Analysts raved about his impressive combination of size, strength and explosiveness as an elite athlete, and those reviews matched the evaluations of several NFL scouts after watching Thomas’ impressive showing at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine (4.61-second 40-yard dash, 35 1/2-inch vertical jump, 118-inch broad jump and 4.18-second 20-yard shuttle).
Despite failing to make a mark as a quarterback for the Cardinals, Dolphins and Giants, Thomas’ athletic traits piqued the interests of coaches and scouts searching for a big-bodied pass-catcher. Considering Thomas’ recent success and the NFL’s history with tight-end conversions (see: WR-turned-TE Darren Waller and former basketball players Jimmy Graham and Mo Alie-Cox, among others), scouts should continue to utilize their imaginations when evaluating long, rangy athletes with intriguing physical tools.
Walker Little: Training camp sensation. The Jaguars have not yet played a preseason game, but Little is on his way to earning all-star accolades as a training camp phenom.
In fact, the No. 45 overall pick of this year’s draft has created quite a buzz throughout the offseason. Observers have raved about his size (6-foot-7, 309 pounds) and refined technique as a prototypical left tackle prospect. During a summer visit to Jaguars practices, I heard glowing reports on his development from staffers and even received a thumbs-up evaluation from Jaguars legend Tony Boselli after he spent some time studying the rookie on the field.
Scouts certainly are not surprised by positive reports on a player once considered a near-perfect high school prospect. Ranked as the No. 1 overall player of the 2017 recruiting class by 247Sports, Little possesses all of the traits that evaluators covet in offensive tackle prospects. From his size and length to his refined footwork and technique, he looks the part at first glance and his performance throughout camp has made some evaluators forget about his two-year layoff at the end of his Stanford career due to injury (torn ACL in 2019) and an opt-out in 2020.
With the rookie showing no signs of rust or underdevelopment as a player, the Jaguars might have uncovered a gem that gives them an insurance policy for Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor on the edges. If Little continues his impressive performance in preseason games, the Jaguars could be forced to reconsider their lineup plans heading into the regular season.