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2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Brian Thomas Jr.

Brian Thomas Jr. had an incredible 2023 but is ultimately overlooked due to his star teammate, Malik Nabers. Malik is one of the most talented players in this class, but Thomas deserves more attention than he's been getting. As a freshman and sophomore, he didn't turn too many heads. He had 28 catches for 359 yards and two touchdowns his freshman year, and 31 catches for 361 yards and five touchdowns his sophomore year. But this year, he exploded for 68 receptions, 1,177 yards, and led the nation in touchdowns with 17.

It did help that he had the Heisman winner in Jayden Daniels, but his physical presence should be a feature every team looks at. Thomas is 6'4, 205 pounds, and can run with the best of them. The size and speed combination will make him very deadly, and a team in the mid-late first round is going to get a day-one starter.

Player Bio

Name: Brian Thomas Jr.

Jersey: No. 11

Position: WR

School: LSU

Class: Junior

Height: 6'4

Weight: 205 lbs

Games Watched: FSU (2022), Tennessee (2022), FSU (2023), Ole Miss (2023), Florida (2023)

Player Breakdown

Hands/Ball Security (13/15)

In his three-year career at LSU, Thomas has 0 fumbles. During his freshman year, he had some drop concerns, but those went away fast. They weren't a concern this year and he hauled in 68 receptions as the second option. His frame allows him to make the toughest of catches and has trusty hands overall.

Contested Catch (9/10)

Thomas has the height advantage over most defenders, so making a play on 50-50 balls is right up his alley. He is a little thinner, but the way he plays and goes up for the ball reminds me of Tee Higgins. That makes for a jump ball threat who can catch any ball thrown his way. It also makes him an immediate red zone threat for any team in the NFL.

Tracking/Body Control (9/10)

Thomas's ball tracking is what makes him such a dangerous deep threat. He runs a lot of vertical routes simply because he can burn defenders or gives his quarterback a legitimate chance at a deep ball. He is best on the outside because of this ability. He's capable of running shorter routes across the middle but has found most success running deep. Brian is very flexible, allowing him to adjust to inaccurate throws, and displaying excellent body control as a result.

Route Running (6/10)

If there is one question about Brian Thomas Jr., it would be his overall route tree. He mainly runs curls/hitch routes, or deep go routes/fades. Not to say he can't run other routes, but being on the outside for most snaps, those were his most common routes. He excels at the highest level when it comes to the curls and go's but could use more work on additional routes. He needs to become quicker in breaking down.

Separation (7/10)

Thomas gets excellent separation on his deep routes and curls, but this goes hand in hand with route running. He doesn't get as much separation on his other routes, which is why he needs to improve his overall route tree. He punishes teams for playing zone coverage, with that said. Since he is portrayed as a deadly deep threat, he can take advantage of that by running his hitch routes. Teams play him like he's going deep every play, so they play off him and give him a lot of space in zone. That's when he stops on a dime and turns around to make a catch. Thomas also punishes when teams give him cushion because of his speed. Defenders think they're in a good position until they realize how fast he is, and he is now caught right up to them.

Release (6/10)

As I've mentioned, the LSU touchdown machine can burn any defender in the league. But for that to happen, he needs to make sure he gets a good release. On occasion, Thomas gets jammed at the line more than people would like to see. This all relates to his route running. That whole aspect of his game isn't polished work, and getting a quicker release is a key step to improving the routes. Doesn't have a bad release but isn't the shifty off-the-line receiver. He is very shifty after the catch when the ball is in his hands though.

Run After the Catch (8.5/10)

Teams need to get the ball in Thomas's hands in other ways than deep shots. His ability to make defenders miss in space is a crucial part of his game. Having a player who can make contested catches at a high rate and can also do damage with the ball in his hands after the catch is rare. He had a 23% forced miss tackle percentage. This shows how elusive the standout receiver is and what he is capable of. He is a raw talent but has the tools to put everything together and become a star.

Vertical Speed (10/10)

His best trait is running straight. He continuously burned every defender this year just by running go-routes. Defenders and coaches have to be on their A-game when preparing for him because one wrong move, and pencil it in as a Thomas touchdown. There's not much else to say other than the man is blazing fast.

Burst/Acceleration (8/10)

Brian wastes no time coming out of his routes. He usually explodes right off the line with no extra movement. Once he has the balls in his hands too, he'll outrun anyone standing in his way. The reason he excels in deep routes is because he accelerates so quickly, all the way to the end of the route. He gains ground in the blink of an eye.

Athleticism (5/5)

Not only was Thomas a football star, but he thrived on the hardwood as well. In high school, he scored 1,000 points in all three years that he played basketball. That's over 3,000 points! Most players get celebrated for scoring 1,000 in their career. That translated to the football field, as his jumping ability is first-class. He also has track-star speed, projecting to run a 4.4 40-yard dash.

Blocking (3/5)

Nothing that stands out crazy on tape but nothing terrible either. His long arms and size allow him to hold his blocks for longer than most.

Versatility (3/5)

I believe Brian Thomas Jr. can be more versatile in the league than he was in college. This comes from developing a more unique route tree. The more routes he can run, the more he can be used in different positions like the slot, or even in jet sweeps. He is so dangerous with the ball in his hands, so running sweeps or screens for him could open up his game even more.

Player Summary

Brian Thomas Jr. is a freak of nature. He can run with the best of them and climb the ladder for any ball thrown his way. He has shown he can adjust his body to make any catch necessary, and his background in basketball allows him to win in the air at a tremendous rate. He can be a legitimate deep threat for any team on day one of camp, he's that talented. He would best fit with a team that likes to air it out and take some risks. For example, Jaylin Hyatt has a similar play style, and I think Hyatt could be really good still. But the problem is the Giants don't let it fly very often. When Hyatt has been targeted in situations like that, he has shown his true potential. In my opinion, that type of limitation could come if Thomas doesn't land in the right system. This is because his route tree isn't fully polished yet.

Thomas is a raw receiver. He needs to work on shorter routes, come out of his breaks quicker, and become more versatile in case he ends up in a system that doesn't favor his playstyle. I am not doubting that Thomas can't overcome these things. I think he can develop into an all-around threat and become dangerous in the passing game for any team. He just needs to put in the work.

I see Brian being selected in the late first round. He has a chance of going earlier because of his unbelievable upside. Those 17 touchdowns he had this year opened up the eyes of scouts, as every team is looking for a deep threat who is also super effective in the red zone. The possibilities are endless for Thomas, and I'm curious to see how he pans out early in his career.

Rookie Projection: Day 1 Starter

Third-Year Projection: Pro Bowl Caliber Receiver

Final Grade: (87.5/100) Mid-1st Round Talent

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