Friday, April 29, 2011

Dolphins trade up, land RB Daniel Thomas in second round

The Miami Dolphins' new-look backfield just got it's first new face, as the Dolphins trade up into the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft to select former Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas.

Without a second-round pick following last offseason's acquisition of wide receiver Brandon Marshall, the Dolphins traded their third (79th), fifth (146th), and seventh (217th) round picks in the draft for the Washington Redskins' 62nd overall pick. The pick was originally held by the Chicago Bears.

The selection gives the Dolphins a talented, young back that can carry the load for an offense that may very well lose Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, and Patrick Cobbs to free agency this offseason.

As it stands, Lex Hilliard and Kory Sheets are likely the only holdover running backs likely to return in 2011 as exclusive-rights free agents.

Following the trade, the Dolphins now have picks in the fourth (111th) and sixth (179th) rounds, as well as two more seventh-round choices at 218th and 235th overall. 


Background

A Hilliard, Fla. native, Thomas attended Hilliard High School where he was a standout quarterback and safety. As a senior, he recorded 57 tackles and an interception on defense, while throwing for 936 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushing for 1,100 yards and 11 scores on offense.

Offered a scholarship by the University of Florida but failing to qualify academically, Thomas initially attended Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he rushed for 1,118 yards and 13 touchdowns over two seasons.

After attending Butler County Community College and Manhattan Christian College in 2008 to get his academics in order, Thomas transferred to Kansas State in 2009, earning first-team All-Big 12 honors and the conference's Newcomer of the Year award after rushing for 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns.

As a senior in 2010, Thomas erupted to rush for 1,585 yards and 19 touchdowns on a 5.3 yard average. He once again earned first-team All-Big 12 honors while ranking seventh in the nation in rushing yards and tied for fifth in ground scores.

Widely regarded as a top-five running back in this year's class, Thomas ran a 4.62 forty and posted 21 bench reps in pre-draft workout. He had a private workout with the Dolphins on April 14.


Analysis

Purely from a talent standpoint, Thomas is a fine second-round pick and absolutely fills a need for the Dolphins. He's a big, sturdy back that hits the hole hard and has good vision. He doesn't have breakaway speed, but he's good at breaking tackles and can handle a high number of carries.

Thomas also has a background at quarterback from his high school days and some at junior college, so in one sense he could be a potential replacement for Ronnie Brown in the wildcat. However, that formation's success waned heavily last year, and with both Dan Henning and David Lee off the staff, it remains to be seen just how much we'll see it in Miami, if at all.

On the negative side, Thomas is a bit slower than you ideally want in a starting running back and he's had issues with ball security, as indicated by his seven fumbles as a senior. He's also not a great blocker yet, though he certainly has the size and strength to be effective in that area.

My main issue with this pick is not the player--Thomas was worthy of a pick at that spot, and the Dolphins absolutely needed to inject some youth into their running game. If the Dolphins can shore up their blocking up front, Thomas should be quite successful as an NFL ball carrier.

That being said, Thomas doesn't have any features that make him particularly stand out from many of the other running back prospects in this class, which begs the question of why the Dolphins felt he was worth surrendering three picks to move up to acquire.

The only running backs backs taken between No. 62 and the Dolphins' original third, No. 79, were Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray (Cowboys) and LSU's Stevan Ridley (Patriots), meaning that the Dolphins theoretically could have stayed home and had a chance at the likes of Kendall Hunter, Taiwan Jones, Jacquizz Rogers, Jordan Todman, Dion Lewis, Derrick Locke, Alex Green, Bilal Powell, Roy Helu, and many more.

Trading one of their three seventh-round picks certainly isn't the end of the world, and losing a fifth isn't all that bad either (especially if you draft guys like John Nalbone). Thomas could turn out to be a high-caliber running back in the NFL, which will certainly help the Dolphins' offense and take pressure off the quarterback.

One just has to wonder if Thomas is special enough to warrant moving up for when he's missing that one standout attribute that makes him a really special prospect, and when he plays a position that rarely features on guy and is so often reliant on the offensive line for success.

Stay tuned Saturday for more Dolphins draft coverage in the final four rounds. And as always, check out the updated depth chart to reflect these transactions here!


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