The New England Patriots elected to give the troubled, but talented Jeff Thomas an NFL opportunity by signing him as an undrafted free agent following a tumultuous stay with the Miami Hurricanes.
There has never been a question about Thomas’ physical gifts. Everyone knows he has great speed and the ability to change a game in a second.
The big issue with Thomas centers around character concerns that almost certainly led to him falling out of the draft completely. Thomas was suspended from the team several times during his stay at Miami and was going to transfer to Illinois before a new Hurricanes coach, Manny Diaz offered him a second chance.
Thomas seemed to be a bit better off the field in his junior season but was still suspended for two games before ultimately electing to sit out the team’s bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. There was a lot of baggage accumulated in a short period of time, but also some amazing plays on the field.
Here is a look at Thomas’ highlights from Miami:
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Jeff Thomas’ College Stats
The stats don’t jump out at you, which is why you need to have the footage to see the complete picture. Even the video above doesn’t tell the entire story. Obviously, we aren’t going to see Thomas’ still-developing route-running skills, but we also don’t see some of the intermediate receptions that prove he’s capable of moving the chains from the slot.
Beyond what he’s capable of adding as a slot receiver, perhaps in the mold of former St. Louis Rams threat Az-Zahir Hakim, Thomas also has the ability to do damage as a return man. He’s fearless in these situations and can easily augment defensive stops with excellent field position or even a special teams score.
What Draft Experts Say About Thomas?
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein had this to say about Thomas ahead of the draft.
Highly explosive playmaker with field-stretching speed and short-area quickness to tempt teams looking for viable three-level solutions from the slot. Thomas’ impressive athleticism and talent were wasted by sub-par quarterbacking and self-sabotage. On tape, he creates chunk plays as a vertical threat, on crossing routes and with wide receiver screens and jet sweeps. He relies on athletic gifts over route acumen, but that can be corrected. His draft profile is bolstered by his potential as a return man, but he’s likely to have his name scratched from some draft boards due to character concerns, despite the talent.
The Patriots have tried their hand at giving players with supposed character issues a shot in the past. Sometimes, they get Randy Moss, other times they get Chad Ocho Cinco, Antonio Brown, and Albert Haynesworth. This time, the team is hoping for more of the former.
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