Wide receiver Devin Thomas said at his Michigan State pro day on Thursday that he has visits planned with the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills.
A few weeks ago, the Vikings might have been thinking they could get a player like Thomas in the second round, but lately his stock has been rising.
In fact, according to former NFL scout Tom Marino, Thomas is the top wide receiver prospect in the 2008 NFL Draft – ahead of names like Malcolm Kelly, Mario Manningham, Limas Sweed, DeSean Jackson and James Hardy.
"(Thomas) has excellent athletic skills, versatility, good hands, and was a real threat after the catch," Marino writes in his evaluation of Thomas. "Runs well and showed the ability to accelerate at the top of the route. Potential No. 1 receiver with a club. Top return potential (quick, instinctive, breaks tackles and has a burst). … Used mostly on slip screens and shallow screens."
A number of draft analysts have stated that they aren't sure any wide receivers are worthy of first-round consideration but expect that a number of them will ultimately be selected in the first round. Thomas is now one of those, according to Marino, who says the junior receiver is worthy of first-round consideration.
Of course, the Vikings' need at wide receiver diminished when they spent $16 million in guaranteed money on Bernard Berrian in free agency. They also have Sidney Rice and Bobby Wade returning – both of whom have starting experience in the Vikings' system in 2007. Second-year receiver/kick returner Aundrae Allison is also a developmental prospect in whom the Vikings continue to express confidence.
But depth will likely be added to the position in the draft, and there could be a half-dozen wide receivers worthy of being drafted in the second round.
Thomas, a 6-foot-2, 216-pounder who ran a 4.43 in the 40, burst onto the scene with Michigan State last year as a junior. He set a school record with 79 receptions for 1,260 yards and eight touchdowns. He also was used occasionally as a ball carrier, rushing 27 times for 177 yards and was used sparingly as a punt returner. His bigger contribution on special teams came in the kickoff return game, where he led the Big Ten and set a single-season conference record with 1,135 yards on 39 returns.
The Vikings used free agency to sign Maurice Hicks as a backup running back, and he is now expected to be the team's primary kick returner, but if Thomas would end up as a Viking he would seem to hold potential to challenge Hicks and Allison there.
For now, Thomas is trying to continue to improve on a solid Combine where he looked very good catching the ball but struggled with his footwork at times.
"Thomas was one of the top two or three receivers in the later session" of the wide receivers' NFL Scouting Combine workouts, according to a pool report on his performance. "His footwork was a little sloppy and he frequently needed to put his hand on the ground to keep himself upright while making cuts. But he demonstrated a forceful stride, attacked his routes and looked each ball into his hands. He didn't drop a ball even despite needing to recover from a few stumbles."
"… Thomas encountered a bad stretch when he needed to correct himself on four of the next five drills. He slid into the sideline upon catching a ball on a 10-yard out. He stumbled on his first cut on a 15-yard dig. He needed to balance himself on his cut on another 10-yard out, but made perhaps the best grab of the session when he dove to scoop a low pass off the ground. He put his hand down again while making his cut on a 12-yard hook. While a lot of receivers ran a sloppy Z-out, Thomas was remarkably sharp before making a nice grab at the sideline, stuttering his steps to stay inbounds."
Now the question is this: Just how serious are the Vikings about Thomas? While he will be one of their allotted 30 pre-draft visits to Winter Park, it still isn't known what other wide receivers they will have in or if they are masking their desires with other available wideouts.
WR Says He's Visiting Vikings
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