TE Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers
Ian Thomas leaves Indiana after only one season of production at the tight end position. With 376 yards and five touchdowns on 25 receptions, Thomas was not a huge producer, but the Hoosier offense was based around the run game. Thomas is heading into the league with an intriguing skill set that could make a huge leap within the first two years. He showed well at the combine, posting a 4.74 40-yard dash and whopping 36-inch vertical jump. Once whispered as a sneaky early second round prospect, Thomas was one of the more coveted mid-round prospects in this year’s draft class.
The Scout’s Notes
Thomas has good size at 6’4” 260 pounds and moves well with very good athleticism. He runs well and is able to create separation against man-coverage, which is extremely valuable as an NFL tight end. Thomas is able to play both in-line and out of the slot, which will allow him to play as a mis-match against smaller defensive backs. He is taller and thicker than many nickel corners and faster than many linebackers. He has good hands and does not drop many passes thrown his way. Thomas blocks well off the line of scrimmage, although it could be polished a bit more before taking on NFL pass rushers. He has an overall great skill set and is set to become one of the more underrated players in the entire 2018 NFL draft class.
The Carolina Panthers selected Thomas with the first pick of the fourth round, which was a bit later than he was originally expected to be drafted. Greg Olsen is coming off an injury-riddled season, and Ed Dickson signed with the Seattle Seahawks, so the back-up tight end is Thomas’ to lose. Once he sits and learns behind Olsen for another season, Thomas will be ready to explode in 2019 and make all fantasy owners angry that they passed on him. Even in tight end premium leagues, Thomas is a borderline fourth round pick. Reach for Ian Thomas if needed, because passing on him will be a major mistake that will hurt for the next seven years.
The first play at 1:19, Thomas lines up in the slot out of the trips-right formation. The play is a stick pattern where the slot receiver (Thomas) has the option of running a five-yard out route if the defense is playing man-coverage or a five-yard curl if the defense is playing any kind of zone. The receiver to his right runs a speed-out, and the boundary receiver runs a go-route to clear the rest of the field. Thomas makes his break followed by an impressive one-handed catch and adjustment. The potential Thomas has for both Cam Newton and the Panthers’ offense is through the roof, so watch out for Thomas to take big steps forward this season and break out in 2019 as one of the NFL’s best tight ends.