On the same day most on the Georgia Tech campus were thinking about basketball, the football practice field was covered with dozens of NFL scouts, officials and even three head coaches for “Pro Day” Monday.
As one scout put it, “This is a little bit unusual.”
Football isn’t a foreign concept at Tech. But having four players projected to go early in the NFL draft is. Derrick Morgan, Demaryius Thomas, Jonathan Dwyer and Morgan Burnett all should be successful in the pros. But it says here the most impactful NFL player will be the guy who was forced to watch Monday’s drills while wearing a walking boot: Thomas.
His size (6-3, 229), strength, toughness, blocking ability and his willingness to go after the ball project well for an NFL wide receiver. He doesn’t have blazing speed but he doesn’t need it.
When Thomas suffered a broken left foot the week before the scouting combine, it prevented him from doing any drills in Indianapolis. He was still in a boot on Monday and likely won’t start light running for at least two weeks. But that shouldn’t be a significant issue.
“I felt like I could’ve helped my draft stock if I had worked out here,” Thomas said. “But hopefully I can have my own pro day before the draft and bring my stock back up. They told me I’ll be alright. It’s not a bad injury.”
NFL teams will want to see Thomas run 10- and 40-yard dashes at some point, just to ease any concerns. (There’s not a big market for gimpy wide receivers.) That likely will happen 10 days before the draft.
But how much can you really tell from these workouts? It’s limited.
Even Falcons Mike Smith, who was among those in attendance Monday with Chicago head coach Lovie Smith and Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt, seemed to watch with only a casual interest. Speaking not about Thomas but draft prospects in general, Smith said: “Some teams want to see you run. Some believe there are certain things you can see in drills. But as a coach, I just want to turn on the film. I want to know if the guy can play.”
Thomas can play. He had 46 receptions, eight touchdowns and averaged over 25 yards per catch in an option offense. (Funny. At one point Monday, he said: “I really don’t know what kind of offense I should be in. I played here in the wishbone.”)
As for his perceived lack of speed, he said: “I’m not saying I’m a blazer or anything, but you’ve got some people who think I’m a 4.6. That’s an insult. I ran a 4.38 and a 4.42 in workouts. I was like, ‘Oh man, I’m going to go to the combine and blow it up.’ Then I broke my foot. It’s frustrating. It was like I had to start over again. But hopefully it will all work out.”
Question: Of the Jackets’ top four pro prospects, whom do you think will be the best NFL player?