NFL Rookie Watch: Daniel Thomas
For weeks before the NFL Draft, Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland hinted his team was hunting for a running back. With Kansas State's Daniel Thomas still on the board at the tail end of Round 2, Ireland made his move, sending Washington a third, a fifth and a seventh-round selection to move up and nab the 230-pound back.
"He's our kind of guy," said Ireland, "he's very physical and once he gets to the second level he can make linebackers and secondary players miss. He's a one-cut runner but he's very physical and he punishes defenders when he gets his pads down."
At Kansas State, Thomas flexed his versatility as much as his muscle. He was recruited to play quarterback but found a home in the backfield, where he gained more than 1,200 yards rushing and caught 25 or more passes in each of his two seasons. Now a part of Miami's rebuilt offense, Thomas is happy to do whatever will get him on the field. As he told reporters in April, "I can catch the ball in the backfield. I can run between the tackles and go outside. Whatever they need me to do."
Miami may need him to do all of the above; the team has hinted it is not committed to signing either Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams, leaving the running back position wide open.
Like Blount, Thomas is a back with the ability to break a long run on occasion. Blount did most of his damage in just 11 games last season (1,007 yards) and finished with 100-yard efforts in three of his last five showings. Thomas could catch fire the same way, especially if he earns a starting spot early into the season.
Thomas has the opportunity and talent to become a nice No. 2 running back in traditional leagues, but he's a much safer bet if selected to serve as a No. 3.