With their first round pick, Mike Pouncey, the Dolphins selected a player from the University of Florida, a standout interior lineman in the SEC for four years, whose name was familiar to most fans by the time the draft rolled around. Widely regarded as the top interior lineman in the 2011 draft, Pouncey was a very safe pick. With their next selection, the Dolphins selected Daniel Thomas a running back from Kansas State; a program that does not receive much, if any, television exposure in South Florida. Although Thomas is a skill position player, most Finatics had never seen footage of him prior to the draft.
In recent weeks, The Finsiders have done their research on the newest Dolphins by interviewing coaches and journalists who have provided unique insight on these players. During the conversations, we had a chance to get answers to important questions regarding Thomas as well as the other draft picks as they make the transition to the NFL. This week, I’ll do my best to summarize what we have learned on Daniel Thomas.
Question: Can Daniel Thomas step into the NFL and be a featured back in 2011?
What We Learned: Cole Manbeck, Kansas State beat writer for the Manhattan Mercury, informed us that Thomas can carry a big load: “He’s a physical runner, his legs are built like tree trunks, he can go out there every Sunday and carry it 20-25 times and just pound it…just a really physical guy that’s built like a horse.” Thomas was the workhorse for Kansas State, carrying the ball at least 20 times in nine of his 13 games in 2010, including a 34 carry, 181 yard performance against Iowa State. After that game, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said of Thomas: “I know one thing. He doesn’t get weaker as the game goes on.”
Along the same lines, Manbeck says the best NFL comparison may be former Chiefs All-Pro running back Larry Johnson, a bruising physical runner in his prime, and a guy who Thomas molds his game after. In a post-draft interview with The Finsiders, Thomas mentioned Steven Jackson as another guy he likes to compare himself to. While Tony Sparano has indicated he would like continue to use a two running back approach for the Dolphins, it doesn’t hurt to have a big back who can wear down a defense late in games and help run out the clock with a lead.
What We Learned: Although Thomas does possess plenty of power in his running, there appears to be a lot more that he can offer. Manbeck cites agility as one of Thomas’ biggest attributes: “He just humiliates defenders sometimes.” Thomas’ versatility and pass catching ability are traits that caught the eye of Kansas State play-by-play man Wyatt Thompson: “That was one of the things that surprised me most, his passing catching ability; he was one of the best in our conference at it.” This pass-catching ability is something that can be useful for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who last year ran a Cleveland offense that saw running back Peyton Hillis catch 61 passes.
On top of all of this, Thomas can throw, too. He was a QB in both high school and junior college and Manbeck let us know that “he’s great at the jump pass,” the goalline play that Tim Tebow made famous during his time in Gainesville. Thomas was 7-12 passing at Kansas St., and as noted by both Manbeck and Thompson, could be a nice fit in the Wildcat formation. It remains to be seen how much, if any, Wildcat the Dolphins will run in 2011 or if Ronnie Brown will re-sign; however Thomas provides options and flexibility- two things that never hurt when constructing a football team.
Other key questions remain, such as who will share the workload with Thomas in 2011? Currently, Thomas joins Lex Hilliard and Kory Sheets as the only running backs under contract with the Dolphins for 2011. While Thomas’ role may change slightly depending on what the Dolphins do in Free Agency, either way one thing is for sure: with his physical skills and flexibility, Thomas figures play a large part in the Dolphins offense this fall.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.