Second round picks were released yesterday in style. A few offensive players that could interest the Cleveland Browns were included in those releases. Stephen Hill from the New York Jets was one, we covered him earlier today trying to separate Reality from Fantasy (New Window). Daniel Thomas, a second round pick of the Dolphins in 2011, was also released. Could he fit a role on the Cleveland Browns as a third down back?
Thomas never carried for more than 600 yards with the Dolphins or had more then 170 carries in a season. Both of his highs were in his rookie season in 2011. The Dolphins soured on Thomas so much so that after 3 seasons they cut him. The Browns on the other hand have veteran back Ben Tate in his first season starting and 2 rookies (Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell) backing him up. Is Thomas a fit as a third down, change of pace back with some experience to join the room? Let us start by looking at some scouting reports on Thomas coming out of college:
Thomas has a great blend of size, power and speed. Consistently gains yardage after contact and breaks arm tackles. Can push the pile. Possesses good vision and patience. Has great initial burst, especially for a big back. Can make defenders miss in the box with his quick feet. Willing and capable in pass pro. Durable and can handle the load.
Occasionally waits a count too long before cutting upfield through the hole. Has great short-area athleticism but doesn’t possess great top-end speed to break a lot of long runs. Isn’t overly comfortable in the passing game. Not a refined route-runner and struggles at times to create space.
Acceleration/Burst/Quickness: Does a nice job making one cut and turning up field. Can get behind his weight and accelerate through the hole. Has some quick twitch burst. Is more quick than fast.
Pass Catching: Has been consistent and reliable catching swing passes and screens. Does a nice job getting to the flats and catching on the move. Sells the play-action and can turn to make a catch in the middle of the field or the flats. Has even lined up at splint end. An underrated receiver.
Positives: Has impressive size and strength for a running back. Has surprising speed for a man his size and shows solid burst to hit the hole. Shows some shiftiness and can be tough to get down in the open field at times. Runs patiently and will find cut-back lanes if you over-pursue against him. He catches the ball well out of the backfield and is so big that he matches up well in pass protection against just about anyone. Flashes a stiff arm at times.
Negatives: Thomas runs with poor pad level which is a problem for someone as tall as him. Despite his great size and strength he is very much a finesse runner, not a power runner. He doesn’t do well with contact, he doesn’t get a lot of yardage after contact, he doesn’t break tackles well and he doesn’t finish runs well.
We pulled these scouting reports as they provide an interesting difference of opinion. TMS scouting had him as a 5th or 6th rounder while the others saw him around the 2nd or 3rd round. As a second rounder being released after 3 seasons Melton has the heads up there.
Yet let us look at a few specifics from the reports to see how he might fit as a 3rd down back. NFL.com says he isn’t real comfortable in the passing game while New Era highlights that he is a underrated receiver. All of them describe a running style that would fit well within the Browns Zone Blocking Scheme: quick feet, initial burst and good short area movements. The idea that he is a big back that wants to be a small back is interesting. If he can show some smaller back qualities in a bigger body that would be great.
For the Browns on third downs the goal is pass protection, which he as been adequate at, and being solid in the passing game. So far in the NFL he hasn’t had huge opportunities as a pass catcher but has done fine with what he has. His most targets came his 2nd season, 22, where he amassed 15 receptions for 156 yards, a 10.4 yards per reception average. Of his total of 42 catches for his career a whopping 16 accounted for first downs as well as 3 touchdowns. Those type of numbers, if given even more chances, would be great as a 3rd down back.
Bring in Thomas would likely be a low cost move. The Browns could get a young player with some experience behind Tate while Thomas gets a fresh start with a specific role. Would it be an earth shattering move? Not likely but for a team that wants to run the ball a ton Thomas could be a good pickup.
What do you think of Thomas for the Browns?