The Bills at number 11, a popular mock draft destination for Thomas, passed. Ten picks later the Redskins were on the clock. Thomas gripped his hands tighter: Washington trades their pick for more in later rounds and Thomas continues to wait.
Into the second round and the Rams select the first wide receiver — Donnie Avery.
GSN's Mike Fowler asked Thomas how he felt about dropping down the board in a post-draft teleconference.
"It was kind of awkward," Thomas said. "I thought my name would have come off the board."
But then the Redskins were back on the board at number 34, and Thomas had a feeling.
"When it got (to be their pick), the time dropped down to five to seven minutes," he said. "(Then) I got that phone call from (Washington Redskins owner) Mr. Snyder. I knew what time it was ... I was going to be a Redskin, so it was real exciting."
After a record-breaking season at Michigan State, where he set a new mark with 79 receptions to go along with 1260 yards, it's no surprise the Redskins see gold in Thomas. But it was surprising they still had the opportunity to invest in him.
"I think that was the biggest surprise for us, "Redskins head coach Jim Zorn said in a news release. "We were thinking, 'Okay, well we are giving that up to go down and get more choices in the second round,' and then when he was there even in the second round, we got excited about that."
Zorn noted Thomas' speed and size as the deciding factors and says his ability to turn up-field is also intriguing. "I like the fact that he can run after he catches the ball," he said.
"Against Indiana he had a huge game and then the Wisconsin game you see him catch a little bubble pass and he out runs everybody to the side then he breaks it back and he out runs everybody. Any time the ball was thrown to him, we watched all of those plays."
Plus, the knock on Thomas, that he is unproven, might just be an asset long-term.
"He is a young player with a lot of upside. He doesn't have injury problems coming out of college," Zorn said. "His athleticism is right there and we just need to develop him."
All-in-all, Zorn rejects the notion that the Redskins should be nervous about Thomas' relatively little experience on the gridiron after playing only one season at the Big Ten level.
"I'm not (nervous), because guys develop at different times in their lives and I think that is what happened," he said. "Probably in spring ball last year, they saw who they really had. He started really coming on in spring ball and they started throwing him the ball and he came through for them in 2007."
If you ask Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio, he'll tell you the value in Thomas is his versatility.
"I think Devin Thomas is a complete football player," Dantonio said. "I think he's one of the (best) football players in America."
And like last season, when Thomas entered spring ball in relative obscurity, buried in the Michigan State depth charts, the chance is all he needs to prove he's ready.
"I'm excited to have an opportunity in the NFL and play for a team like the Washington Redskins," Thomas said.
"It's a huge step. They picked me first … now I just have to perform and do my job and work with the team."
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