Darron Thomas made a quizzical decision when he decided to enter the NFL Draft and forego his senior year with the Oregon Ducks, because many scouts do not rate him highly and have him going in the later rounds of the draft. Thomas is coming from Chip Kelly’s simplified spread offense where his reads were quick outs and such, but a pro-style offense is far more complex. Thomas’s technique has also been called into question, and NFL defenses will be able to exploit his wind-up like passing motion.
While Darron Thomas enjoyed a successful college career with an average of 8.1 yards per attempt and 8.8 adjusted yards per attempt, he is not listed as a top ten quarterback in most draft rankings. This comes as no surprise, because scouts are not enamored with his accuracy, technique, or footwork and believe that his only quality assets are pocket presence and arm strength.
Thomas is a decent rusher with the football, but he is a wise quarterback who does not take off often. He waits for plays to develop and has the strength to make throws downfield. However, he puts too much weight on his front foot, and this sometimes effects his strength on throws. A concern with Thomas is that he struggles with throws on intermediate routes, which is the mainstay zone for an NFL quarterback.
Despite some quality college numbers, Thomas’s accuracy is a huge question mark and will scare many teams away. In fact, he is listed as a 7th round/undrafted type player and is viewed as a project quarterback. It is extremely unlikely for the 23-3 Duck to become a starter in the NFL, but there is a solid chance that he ends up being a capable back-up with a couple of years of seasoning.
The flaws in his game were not as glaring in the offensive system that he played in while with the Ducks, but it is clear that his mechanics need some work. This well increase his below-average accuracy, because arm strength is not as important without sufficient accuracy. Darron Thomas is an excellent leader and game manager who can take hits and keep his composure in the pocket, but it takes a certain amount of accuracy in order to be a starter at the NFL level. Anything is within the realm of possibility, but Thomas’s chances of becoming a starter within the first three years of his career are not within the realm of probability.
The last sentence brings up an interesting point about the project QB, because there is the chance that Thomas ends up starting after five years in the league. If he lands with a team that has a strong coaching staff and a smart front office, then they could develop Darron Thomas into an adequate (different than average, because that would be a stretch) starting quarterback. It is more likely that Thomas ends up as a similar quarterback to Dennis Dixon and is a decent career back-up due to his lack of accuracy, mechanics, and raw skill. Thomas is actually a little worse than Dixon was coming out of college, which means that his upside is as a fifth rounder (Dixon was a fifth round pick) and his expected draft value is in the late seventh round.
The decision made by Darron Thomas to bolt for the NFL Draft shocked many of his teammates, but DT might know something that the rest of the world doesn’t. According to Adam Jude of the Register-Guard, Darron Thomas took a look at the other quarterbacks who will be picked and decided he compared favorably enough to them that it was worth declaring for the Draft.
In my eyes, the basic concerns associated with Darron Thomas indicate that he is not worth a pick higher than a seventh round flier. However, his track record and success with the Oregon Ducks suggests that he is worth drafting in the late seventh round. A good team with the right front office and coaching staff should use a pick on him and try to mold him into a capable quarterback. This is what is best for Thomas’s future and a team’s future, because Thomas isn’t a special player by any means. However, he is a leader with a high football IQ and can be a valuable game manager as a back-up further down the road. He’s worth the draft pick, but a team would be crazy to take him higher than the 5th round; he is best left as a seventh rounder on a traditionally strong team with a franchise quarterback who is relatively young.
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