+Learns the game quickly (former tight end)
+Excellent decision maker
+Footwork in the pocket
+Comfortable in the pocket
-Inaccurate on the run
-Mediocre throw power for a future first rounder
-Below average pocket awareness
-Occasionally overestimates the strength of his own arm
Virginia Tech junior quarterback Logan Thomas might be my favorite quarterback of the 2013 draft class. He’s extremely unusual in the sense that he is an athletic quarterback with a high floor and low ceiling for a first round prospect. Pretty much every athletic quarterback I’ve ever scouted has a reputation for having absolutely unbelievable potential, but the potential to be a complete bust since they have problems with their mechanics and have never played in a pro style offense before. But Thomas is different. I’d be shocked if he didn’t become at least an average starter at the next level. But, at the same time, I don’t expect him to ever be among the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
Thomas has excellent measurables. He has ideal size at 6’6, 254lbs, and he runs a 4.56 40 yard dash. However, I must advise everyone not to get too excited about that 40 yard dash. Virginia Tech has been known to produce strange 40 yard dash times, largely because it allows players to run 40’s on an indoor track (I think Syracuse is the only other FBS school that does the same thing). David Wilson ran a 4.49 at the combine but a 4.40 at VT’s pro day. I loved Eddie Whitley out of college last year, but there is no way that he runs a 4.39 40. His film strongly suggests otherwise (closer to a 4.55). I’ve seen enough of James Gayle to know that he doesn’t run a 4.59 40 at 256lbs. Those numbers suggest he is unhuman, however, film suggests that he is only above average. And there is no way Marcus Davis is 6’4, 228lbs, and runs a 4.44 40. One way or another, Virginia Tech has been known to produce weird 40’s. Logan Thomas isn’t quite as fast as that 4.56 40 suggests. On film, his athleticism suggests something in the neighborhood of 4.72, give or take .05 seconds. Still, he has phenomenal athleticism relative to size (don’t forget he is 254lbs), and he has an ideal body for an NFL quarterback.
Thomas has excellent stats. Something that I must say has always annoyed me; stats such as quarterback rating don’t account for a quarterback’s rushing stats. Logan Thomas (and Cam Newton) sized quarterbacks who are also athletic are unstoppable runners near the end zone. As a result, team with quarterbacks lie Logan Thomas often run the ball with him near the goal line, plus, he is likely to scramble if no one is open. A typical college football quarterback gets roughly 3 rushing touchdowns per year. Thomas got 11 last year. Last year, Thomas had an unspectacular 19 to 10 touchdown to interception ratio, but, when you consider the fact that he had so many rushing touchdowns, and many run plays were called near the goal line, if he was less athletic, his touchdown to interception ratio probably would have been closer to 26 to 10. His athleticism and his rushing ability near the end zone seriously hurt his passer rating, since he often ran the ball near the end zone. In reality, he was a more productive passer than his solid but unspectacular 135.5 quarterback rating suggests. He had a low than expected completion percentage of 59.8 in 2011, but he struggled in the first two starts of his career (ironically, against Appalachian State and East Carolina). In every other game, his completion percentage was 62%. I couldn’t help but notice that nearly all of his games fell into one of two categories: high completion percentage, very few yards, or lots of yards, low completion percentage. To me, this indicates that he sometimes falls in love with his deep ball, which he can’t throw with much touch (more on that later). Other than that inconsistency, his stats were excellent in his only year as a starter.
Thomas has phenomenal accuracy. As mentioned before, I feel that Thomas, unlike most “athletic quarterbacks,” has a low ceiling but a high floor for a future first round quarterback. Much of the reason for that is his phenomenal accuracy. He has the best throwing mechanics of any quarterback in all of college football. Without a doubt. He stands tall (but not too tall) in the pocket, he has a very clean, quick delivery, his footwork is phenomenal. and he throws a good spiral. As a result of all these things, his accuracy is stupendous. On the downside, he is very inaccurate on the run. It’s not mechanics. Thomas is a former tight end. Throwing on the run is quite simply something he needs to practice. It’s best fixed by repetition. He should be fine at that in the NFL. He also played in an offense at Virginia Tech that should set him up nicely for a pro style offense in the NFL (unlike guys like Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Vince Young, and Tim Tebow). I’m not saying that Virginia Tech runs a pro style offense. But, unlike the guys mentioned in the previous sentence, Thomas has had a major role in play calling at Virginia Tech, Frank Beamer trusts him to call an audible, he can make good pre snap reads, and, even though he wears a wristband with plays on it, I rarely see him look at it on the field. His accuracy and favorable offense at Virginia Tech set him up nicely for success in the NFL. But…
Thomas has mediocre throw power, and I don’t trust his deep ball. Good throw power results from a combination of two things: nice mechanics and arm strength. Thomas seems to have one (nice mechanics). The problem with that is that he doesn’t really have a chance to improve his throw power. Thomas’ mechanics are already flawless, yet his throw power is no better than that of Tim Tebow. The fact that a guy like Tebow can throw as hard as Thomas is a testament to Tebow’s arm strength. However, his inefficient mechanics result in lots of wasted energy in his delivery and only average throw power. If he were to fix his mechanics, his arm would be among the most powerful in the NFL. However, with Thomas, it’s not as simple as a few minor mechanical adjustments. His arm strength is just poor. However, his throw power is average by NFL standards thanks to his accuracy alone. Thomas’ difficulty to put zip on his passes make certain throws (especially toward the outside) very difficult for him, and I also don’t trust his deep ball. Thomas’ high release point, which is a result of height and excellent mechanics, means that most of his passes typically don’t have much of an arc, so it can be very difficult for him to essentially throw a pass that goes over a defender without going over his receiver. It’s the same reason that taller basketball players struggle with free throws; their inability to get a good arc on their shot means that free throws a shot at a more awkward angle. Same goes for all of Thomas’ deep passes; his deep passes need to be absolutely perfect to be caught. Let’s say there is a situation where a Virginia Tech receiver is 1.5 yards ahead of the nearest defender on a deep pass. Thomas’s problem is that his deep ball lacks an arc, so, between the time that the ball goes past the defender and to the receiver, the ball might only decrease 6 inches in elevation. So, in that situation, in order to throw a catchable deep ball, Thomas must throw the pass between roughly 1-5 inches above the hands of the defender; anymore and it’s overthrown, any less and the pass is deflected. That is an incredibly small margin for error, so throwing a deep pass is very difficult for Thomas, and it will hurt him in the NFL.
Thomas is an excellent decision maker. At times, he can fall in love with all forms of single coverage (even if it’s a 40 yard pass), but you rarely see him force passes. He is smart enough to avoid double coverage at all times, he does a brilliant job of using his eyes to do things like look off the safety, he does an excellent job of making pre snap reads, he is phenomenal at reading zone coverage schemes, he never locks onto receivers, and he does an excellent job of checking through his progressions. As a decision maker, he is close to flawless.
Thomas has average pocket presence. Thomas has below average pocket awareness, but, more importantly, he feels comfortable in the pocket. Unlike guys like Blaine Gabbert, Thomas doesn’t make poor decisions under pressure. He is very comfortable against the blitz, and he doesn’t feel the urge to roll out or run the ball if he doesn’t see anyone open within a second of receiving the snap. Being comfortable in the pocket is crucial, and Thomas feels very comfortable in the pocket. On the downside, he has mediocre awareness of the blitz, he really doesn’t protect his blindside, he has no awareness of the line of scrimmage (I saw him throw an illegal forward pass once. He might have been in front of the first down marker. Couldn’t believe it), and his lack of an ability to sense the blitz means that he occasionally struggles to get rid of the football before being sacked. But again, it’s far more important that a quarterback doesn’t make idiotic decisions at the first sign of pressure, and that’s a problem that definitely doesn’t apply to Thomas.
Thomas is a good rusher. Like Cam Newton, Thomas relies more on power than on speed to get his rushing yards, and it results in frequent rushing touchdowns. Thomas has fantastic toughness, speed, and vision, which all help him succeed as a runner. Plus, I’ve never seen him scramble in a situation where anything else might have been a better option. When he scrambles, he is always making the right call. He’s still a pass first quarterback, but he takes advantage of every rushing opportunity. But, at the same time, he doesn’t ever scramble when he doesn’t have a good chance of getting significant yardage by running. Thomas is great at running the football.
Thomas has good character. He’s never had any character issues in his career (at least that I am aware of), he has excellent poise and toughness, and I think he has to be a hard worker. I really don’t like to make assumptions like the one I am about to make, but for Thomas to go from tight end to the most fundamentally sound quarterback in all of college football really speaks to one of three things; he’s either an extremely hard worker, a genius with a natural knack for football, or both. I hate making assumptions like this, but any guy who can become the most fundamentally sound player at his position in all of college football AFTER SWITCHING POSITIONS must be an incredibly hard worker, since nobody should be able to master the components of being a good quarterback as quickly as Thomas did without working his butt off. There is no reason to believe that Thomas’ character is anything but good.
Overall, I really like Thomas. I find his combination of accuracy, decision making ability, and athleticism to be quite intriguing, and I expect him to be quite successful at the NFL level. But we must remember that he is a junior, and he isn’t a sure thing to enter the 2013 draft.
NFL Comparison: A slightly bigger, slightly faster Donovan McNabb. Culpepper might be an even more accurate comparison, but I try to avoid comparing a player to a guy who has been out of the NFL for 3 years.
Grade: 98 (worthy of a top 6 pick)
Projection: 96 (will be a mid to early first round pick)