Small-school product Thomas hot prospect because of CB experience
Posted: Friday April 23, 2004 5:49PM; Updated: Friday April 23, 2004 5:49PM
By B. Duane Cross, SI.com
With the NFL Draft mere hours away, Montana State cornerback Joey Thomas is quickly becoming a marked man -- for the right reasons.
Thomas, a three-time All-Big Sky selection, has moved up some teams' pre-draft boards to the No. 3 cornerback prospect slot, and potentially into the first round of the draft.
Virginia Tech's DeAngelo Hall and Dunta Robinson of South Carolina are considered the top two cornerbacks in the draft, and both are expected to be drafted in the first 15-20 picks.
West coast scout Rob Rang has said that he believes Thomas could be chosen as early as No. 25, and will definitely be off the board in the second round.
A league source said Friday that Thomas' Senior Bowl, Scouting Combine and personal workouts elevated him above the likes of Ohio State's Chris Gamble, Oklahoma's Derrick Strait and USC's Will Poole.
"There are several teams that have Thomas ranked within the top five [cornerbacks] on their board, and three teams have him at No. 3," the source said. "[The teams] know his skills are raw, but the advantage he has over a player like Chris Gamble is that [Thomas] has played the position, whereas Gamble is just getting into the position."
Both players are almost identical in height (a smidge over 6-foot-1) and weight (about 195 pounds), but Gamble turned in a 4.58 time in the 40, while Thomas ran a 4.44. Again, not much difference, but it could factor into a team's decision when deciding on a project-type player like Gamble or a player whose skills need refining, like Thomas.
Gamble was a two-way player at Ohio State, moving to defensive back as a sophomore after spending 1 1/2 seasons as a receiver. He entered the draft after his junior year and is considered athletic but not technically sound as a defensive back.
Thomas, who spent one season at Washington, transferred from the Huskies to Division I-AA Montana State after UW wanted to move him to running back.
"You can't go wrong with a cornerback that is the big and that talented," another source said of Thomas. "With the way the game is changing, the bigger, more athletic wide receivers ... you have to have a cornerback who plays with confidence like [Thomas] does to go up against the Terrell Owens and Randy Moss types.
"I think Thomas is a player who will get better and better every year."