Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is complete, dynasty fantasy football decisions are on the line. As a former high school football coach and educator by trade, one of my passions include providing film-based reviews on rookie prospects and focusing on their strengths and weakness which may assist other fantasy football enthusiasts in their evaluations.
After reviewing four of his games, here’s my scouting report on former Indiana Hoosier and Carolina Panthers tight end Ian Thomas:
[Note: Most of these game videos are available via YouTube]
TE Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers
6’3” | 259 lbs.
2018 Senior Bowl, Georgia Southern, Ohio State, Penn State
While Thomas is very athletic, he has only played for a major college for two years and is very much on the raw side. The newest Panthers rookie tight end started his collegiate career as two-star JUCO recruit for Nassau Community College, which is designed to help students enter the workplace, not find a path to the NFL. It took him a while to get used to the upgrade from Nassau to Indiana. In fact, Thomas’ academic transition from the JUCO program to his Big Ten school in July 2016 did not allow him much time to assimilate to his new environment, and he was only able to start in 11 of a possible 23 games. His resilience is quite amazing. Thomas lost both of his parents (mother to organ failure and father to heart attack) before he turned nine years old, and then got raised by older siblings (nine children total in his family). He will be entering the NFL turning 22 in June, which makes him slightly older than many of his draft classmates.
The young tight end is a raw piece of clay with only 28 receptions and 5 touchdowns in his time as a Hoosier. Thomas tends to round off most of his routes and does not run a full cascade of those routes as the majority of NFL 4th round selections would. He does not use a lot of technique against opponents; he prefers to run right through them. Thomas also tends to get banged up often, dealing with minor leg injuries in his senior season. Hopefully, the change to working out at the Carolina facility with professional medical and training staff will make these less likely to happen.
He is a versatile chess piece and can line up inline, in the slot, at wing back, or split out wide. His usage shouldn’t tip off defenders as to where the ball is going as many other high-end tight ends do. Also, Thomas has decent draft currency after being selected at the beginning of the fourth round. Therefore, he will get to play behind and learn from Greg Olsen. The young tight end has a decent sized catch radius with big, meaty hands, adjusts well to the pigskin in the air, and comes down with difficult receptions. Thomas possesses a powerful stiff arm that can knock defenders away from his body.
The new Panther tight end has a powerful lower body that can generate power and speed. Once Thomas has the pigskin, he keeps his legs churning, falls forward, and can be very troublesome to bring to the ground. Thomas is still developing his blocking but seems more effective with it when attempting it from the slot or wing. He runs very smooth, changes directions with ease, and rarely gets rerouted while running pass patterns. Then again, Thomas’ “The Sleeping Giant” nickname may be the biggest indicator of all.
The young tight end got drafted into a great situation with an all-pro to teach him how to truly play the position well. Thomas’ time as a JUCO player didn’t get him drafted, but his raw athleticism might keep him in the league for a while. His personal story gives him more than enough resilience to find a way to excel at the next level. In dynasty leagues with taxi squads, he might be a great stash-and-wait prospect that you don’t even look at until 2019. Currently, Thomas is being drafted in the late fourth round as the TE5 and 46th best rookie prospect according to MyFantasyLeague’s ADP.
Thanks for reading. I will continue to generate and discuss 2018 rookie scouting reports with you so be sure to keep an eye on DTC for all of the new content. You can also follow me on Twitter @AndrewMiley.