Nobody could catch De'Anthony Thomas from behind with the ball in his hand when he played at Oregon. He's not planning for it to happen in the NFL, either.
"Not at all," said Thomas, the fourth-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs. "Once I get out of the gates, I feel like I'm going to score that touchdown."
Thomas is fast enough to back up that claim. He is world-class fast and for that reason, Thomas could wind up having the biggest immediate impact among any of the six players the Chiefs drafted this year.
The Chiefs would be smart to unleash Thomas immediately as their kickoff and punt-return specialist. He returned four kickoffs and a punt for touchdowns in his three seasons at Oregon. He'll be coached on special teams by Dave Toub, who has had a nice touch working with skilled return specialists before.
"Let's don't underestimate what (Toub has) been able to do in his career with unique talents at returner," Chiefs director of player personnel Chris Ballard said. "He did it in Chicago, I was with him. I watched him take four guys and all were very good players and then he came in here and what he did with Dexter McCluster and our kickoff returners. So we've got some unique staff here to take advantage of his unique skill set."
But the Chiefs are looking for a slot receiver to replace McCluster and Thomas immediately becomes the most intriguing candidate for that job. At 5-9 and 174, he is of similar size to McCluster. His skills are similar as well, though Thomas is faster.
"He offers a lot of the same traits in terms of being both a very good receiver out of the backfield and as a runner," said Trey Koziol, the Chiefs' west coast scout. "I think you see similar traits in the open field, guys who can make people miss, guys who are a threat to take it to the house.
"I think when you've got a guy that's got kind of a Swiss Army Knife‐type versatility, you can move him all over the place. Just look for the best mismatch. I'll leave that up to coach and the offensive staff. But from the scouting perspective, I think that he has all the physical tools you could look for in the receiving game as well. He's a guy that catches the ball very, very well for them there and has had a lot of production in the pass game for Oregon."
Chiefs coaches and officials said many of the same things over the years about McCluster. Though McCluster had decent numbers in terms of catches and yards, he delivered few big plays on offense.
While the speed and ability are there for Thomas, the Chiefs need to find a way to get more from him. If the Chiefs can just get from Thomas what they got from McCluster, he is worth the pick. And if they can get Thomas to achieve his full potential, he is worth so much more.