BBD Editor: Dan Hope
Logan Thomas has the best physical tools of any quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Physically reminiscent of Carolina Panthers star and 2011 No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton, the Virginia Tech quarterback has a combination of size, athleticism and arm strength that is unmatched in this year’s draft class.
But while Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, UCF’s Blake Bortles and Fresno State’s Derek Carr are all being viewed as potential top-10 draft picks, grades on Thomas have ranged everywhere from the second round to undrafted free agency.
While Thomas’ physical tools might sell some that he should be an early-round pick, his consistently low completion percentages and high interception rates are enough to dissuade many evaluators.
Some, including some evaluators associated with NFL teams, have even suggested that Thomas should consider a move to tight end.
“I’m a quarterback no matter what,” Thomas said at the Senior Bowl. “I don’t even entertain the idea of being a tight end.”
Thomas said he told NFL scouts who asked him about a position switch that he would “disregard” teams who wanted him to play tight end instead of quarterback.
Scot Loeffler, who coached Thomas in 2013 as Virginia Tech’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, agrees with his former pupil.
“Someone’s going to fall in love with him,” Loeffler told Buffalo Bills Draft. “He can make every single throw. He’s got the size, he’s got the mobility, he’s got the toughness, he’s got the ability to learn the scheme, he just needs to continue to master his trade.
“It’s a shame he doesn’t have another year of college,” Loeffler added, “because I think another year of training would significantly help him.”
I’d agree with both Thomas and Loeffler in regards to the position switch. An athletic, 6’6”, 250-pounder who demonstrated a ripped physique at the Senior Bowl weigh-in, Thomas looks the part of a tight end, but it is unknown whether he could adequately catch passes, run routes and block.
The questions that could be had about Thomas’ potential as a tight end, however, aren’t all that different than what should be asked about his potential as a quarterback. While he certainly looks the part with ideal physical tools for the position, it remains unknown whether Thomas will ever develop enough consistency in his downfield accuracy, decision-making and mechanics to be an NFL starting quarterback.
Tale of the Tape
Height: 6’5 3/4”
Hand Width: 10 3/4”
Arm Length: 33”
Wingspan: 79 3/8”
*All measurables from Senior Bowl weigh-ins
+ Ideal physical measurables
+ Rocket arm
+ Shows he can zip throws between tight windows downfield
+ Tough to bring down as a runner, can run through tackles
+ Good burst as a runner out of the backfield
+ Clean footwork on drops from center
+ Good at throwing from play action
+ Shows he can throw on the move
- Erratic decision-making
- Bad habit of throwing off back foot under pressure
- Lacks downfield touch, often throws too high/long
- Does not consistently throw ball accurately downfield
- Seems to not always see coverages downfield
- Tends to stand in pocket too long, resulting in late throws, sacks or forced throw-aways
- Overly content to pull down and run
- Completion percentage below 60, double-digit interceptions in all three seasons as starter
When Thomas is at his best, it’s easy to see how a team could “fall in love” with the Virginia Tech quarterback as Loeffler suggested.
The common description that a quarterback can make “any throw on the field” is more hyperbole than fact, but it’s really quite accurate for Thomas, who has displayed the arm strength to complete passes as far as 60-65 yards down the field.
The above example from Draft Breakdown’s cut-up of this past season’s Virginia Tech versus Duke game is a good example of his arm strength. Ignore the wide receiver bobbling the ball; Thomas threw the ball from the back of the end zone to hit his target in stride at the 45-yard line, displaying a deep-ball ability that few quarterbacks, even in the NFL, possess.
Throwing it over the top of the defense is just one display of Thomas’ arm strength. He has shown that he can rifle passes between tight windows on both intermediate and deep throws. He puts terrific zip on the football when he throws it, allowing him to drive the football through even a small opening between defenders.
Thomas can sometimes be too trusting in his ability to fire the ball through tight windows. Many of Thomas’ interceptions have come from trying to throw passes where defensive backs have already closed the window on a receiver.
At times, it seems as though Thomas simply doesn’t see a coverage downfield properly, and allows a defensive back to break on a pass as a result. In the following example from the Virginia Tech-Duke cut-up, Thomas has three consecutive throws tipped by defenders, after which ESPN color commentator Kelly Stouffer gave insightful analysis into Thomas’ errors.
As Thomas moves on to the next level, where defensive coverages are only going to get tighter and more complex, he needs to not only improve upon his ability to make reads, but make throws more quickly and know when and where he should not make a throw.
Loeffler thinks Thomas has the ability to see and anticipate passing windows more effectively, and expects the quarterback will make the necessary improvements to cut down on his proneness to mistakes.
“He needs to reduce his interception rate, and that again will come along with reps and repetitions and being within one system,” Loeffler said. “I think just overall, general, continue to work on decision-making, continue to work on anticipation and proper ball placement on particular throws, all of which he can improve on and he will improve on.
“He’s got all the intangibles, he’s got the work ethic, he’s got it,” Loeffler added. “I will be shocked if that guy doesn’t have a very good NFL career.”
Thomas is just as confident in himself as his coach is in him.
“I’m one of the best out there, there’s no doubt about it,” Thomas said at the Senior Bowl in regards to why he thinks a team should draft him as its next quarterback.
Many do have doubts about it, however, many of which derive from his mediocre completion percentage (55.8) and touchdown-interception ratio (53-39) over the past three seasons.
His numbers were affected in part, especially in 2013, by a high drop rate from his receivers. Still, there are many flaws in his game that, if uncorrected, will keep him from having greater success with better receivers at the next level.
For as good as Thomas can be throwing the ball downfield, he shows no consistency in passing with downfield accuracy or touch. He needs to learn how to rein in his arm talent more effectively, as he has a tendency to sail passes long or high by simply putting too much velocity on the throw.
Thomas is mechanically sound for the most part. He has plenty of experience dropping back from under center, and shows clean footwork in doing so. He has an effective release and does a good job squaring his shoulders to his target, even when he is on the move.
That said, he has a tendency to throw off his back foot under pressure, which can lead to inaccuracy. He will also need to speed up his internal clock at the next level, as he tends to wait in the pocket until pressure comes to him if he is unable to quickly hit his first read.
While Thomas is very up-and-down as a passer, his value is increased by his ability to make plays as a runner. He has a good burst when he decides to take off and run, can make defenders miss with his cuts and perhaps most impressively, can use his great size to power through tacklers.
He has proven to be a tough runner to bring down, and can even run straight through a defender, something UCLA freshman phenom Myles Jack learned the hard way in the Sun Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
Thomas can be too reliant on his running ability at times, but if he can become more comfortable in finding secondary passing reads, that shouldn’t be a big issue.
Where Should Logan Thomas Be Drafted?
It’s always most difficult to project where quarterbacks will be drafted, but that’s especially true with Thomas.
As Loeffler suggested, Thomas would really benefit from another year to improve at the collegiate level. In his lone season working with the draft prospect, Loeffler said Thomas “improved and advanced more in one year than any guy that I’ve ever been around.”
“He’s a guy that picks things up very quickly, he’s a guy that can change,” Loeffler said.
Still, it would be an understatement to say that Thomas failed to live up to expectations in his final two collegiate seasons. After being projected as a future first-round pick by some during the summer of 2012, Thomas did not make the necessary strides in his junior and senior year to get him there.
Nonetheless, despite two years of unfulfilled potential, his still-high upside could lead a team to pulling the trigger faster than many expect.
In a weaker quarterback class last year, the Buffalo Bills selected EJ Manuel as the draft’s first quarterback with the No. 16 overall pick, despite many media evaluators grading Manuel as a mid-round selection. Manuel wasn’t nearly the class’ most polished quarterback, but he was its most physically gifted.
He wouldn’t have been, however, had Thomas declared for the draft following his junior season. Justin Higdon, a staff writer for DraftBrowns.com, said he “openly wondered” if some NFL teams would have favored Thomas over Manuel.
“E.J. is more accurate, but not by a great deal, and they have some of the same issues holding them back,” Higdon said. “Both guys look the part, are intelligent and coachable. But something is holding them back.”
There were no quarterbacks at the level of Bridgewater and Manziel or even Bortles and Carr in last year’s draft class, so Thomas is highly unlikely to vault to the top of the quarterback class like Manuel did.
Still, Higdon said that although he personally thinks Thomas is worth a fourth-round pick, he does not see Thomas making it out of the second round.
“Some coach always thinks he can work with a guy like that and coax that ‘moment where everything clicks’ out of a gifted but incomplete player,” Higdon said. “He’s built like a defensive end with a rocket attached to his arm, and if someone could just get him to speed up his delivery and feel pressure, Thomas could turn into a star.
“Those aren’t easy traits to learn,” Higdon added. “I believe they can be learned, but not without patience and a lot of hard work.”
For some teams, Thomas’ flaws might be enough to keep him off the board altogether, but all it takes is one team to believe he is the best quarterback available and pull the trigger.
“In the perfect world, it would be great for Logan to go sit behind a veteran for a year or two, a veteran that’s in his last stages starting, and develop into a heck of an NFL player,” Loeffler said.
Best fits for Thomas could include the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans, who all have quarterbacks (Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton and Jake Locker, respectively) whose long-term futures with their teams are uncertain past the 2014 season, after which they will be unrestricted free agents.
Thomas probably isn’t the right guy, unless as a second quarterback drafted after an earlier pick at the position, for teams such as the Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders with more immediate needs.
He could be in play, however, for teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets and even the Bills, who might want to hedge their bets on talented but unproven young signal-callers.
Regardless of where he ends up, Thomas expects to be successful.
“I’m going to be a great leader and have a good time,” Thomas said.