Say this for Mel Kiper: When he likes a guy, he really likes a guy. (Think of Mel as the Sally Field of draftniks.) And Mel really likes Demaryius Thomas, the Georgia Tech product who had the seeming misfortune of breaking a bone in his foot last week while readying for the NFL draft.
You’d think a broken foot might give a draft-tracker cause for pause, but not our Mel. (Actually, he’s ESPN’s Mel. But I like to think he belongs to us all.) And here, in a mailbag just released on the Worldwide Leader’s Insiders site — all Mel links require registration — is a question from a reader regarding Thomas, who’s known fondly as Bay-Bay, and Mel’s cogent answer:
Q: I’m excited about the possibility of D. Thomas out of Ga. Tech, but he’s not from a passing offense! Isn’t this a guy who might not help the team at all early in his career because he’s still learning? Why don’t the Bengals get more of a sure thing? – Aaron K. (Cincinnati)
A: Look at it from the other perspective, Aaron. Look at a guy who thrived despite the fact that he was in a running offense and any time the ball was in the air, everybody on the field knew it was headed his way, and they still couldn’t stop it. Here’s what I see: Thomas is highly-skilled. He’s a feared vertical threat, with really impressive size. In the Tech offense, either he went deep and they just threw it up and he’d catch it (and he did many times), or they threw a quick-hitter close to the line of scrimmage and asked him to run. What he’ll need to develop is that intermediate game, picking up on the NFL-style routes. He also has foot questions like Michael Crabtree had that will limit him, but look at Crabtree. He didn’t fall that far. Thomas will have some “raw” to him, but you’re talking about a guy that could have been totally dominant, a top 10 pick if he’s coming out of a pro style offense like USC. If Cincy passes, Baltimore could land him, or perhaps the Jets. So passing on him could help some other teams add even greater value.
I post this because I’m starting to hear the knocks on Thomas from some of you — maybe it’s just me being suspicious, but I’m thinking a few such knocks are coming from Georgia fans — and I can’t imagine my response being any more pointed than Mel’s.
Over the past two seasons Tech completed 152 passes; Thomas caught 85 of them (55.9 percent). Over that span he accounted for 1,781 of the Jackets’ 3,064 yards receiving (58.1 percent). Opponents didn’t have to cover many receivers — Tech doesn’t have a tight end on its roster — and still they couldn’t cover Thomas. Imagine him in a system where three wideouts and a tight end were routinely deployed. (Like, say, Georgia’s.)
As for the impact of Bay-Bay’s boo-boo: Kiper hasn’t redone his mock draft, which last week had Thomas going to Cincinnati with the 21st pick in Round 1, but he has updated his Big Board. And he has Thomas rated as the 25th-best prospect, down only four spots from last week. That’s not much of a slip for a broken foot, is it? Which can only mean …
Mel is sold on Bay-Bay. And I’m with Mel on this one.