In 2020, we’ll see seven rookies from the University of Miami make their debut in the NFL. There are several who I believe can have success in their first season in the pros, such as Deejay Dallas with the Seahawks, and K.J. Osborn with the Vikings. Though, I think it’ll be wide receiver Jeff Thomas, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots, who’ll have the biggest impact as a rookie.
The Patriots have signed undrafted free agent WR Jeff Thomas from Miami.— Jordan Moore (@iJordanMoore) April 26, 2020
Notes on Thomas:
- Incredible speed, great hands
- Great in slot (as every UDFA Pats signee is)
- Will have to impress in camp to earn a spot on a crowded NE receiving roster pic.twitter.com/Y8UGJTLpDB
When he was at Miami, though his time was often riddled with controversy, nobody ever doubted Thomas’ abilities with the football. Whenever this speedster from St.Louis touched the ball, you knew something was about to happen.
Talent wise, Thomas should’ve been drafted. However, because of problems he had at Miami, he went without being selected. Now, he’s going to team in New England, with a great head coach in Bill Belichick, and a franchise with a culture of discipline and also winning. Personally, I think it’s the best situation Thomas could have as a rookie.
Jeff Thomas was a legit deep threat during his time at Miami.— PFF NE Patriots (@PFF_Patriots) April 26, 2020
In 2018 Thomas caught all 9 catchable passes aimed 20+ yards downfield for 327 yards and 3 TDs. https://t.co/U73FYj66QH
New England is no stranger to bringing in players with a troubled past, Malcolm Butler, J.C. Jackson, Randy Moss and Corey Dillon just to name a few. These players were able to come in and adapt to the “Patriot Way” and find success. However, there have been those brought in like Antonio Brown and Albert Haynesworth, who couldn’t shake their issues.
It’s not only players with character issues that Belichick has worked his magic with, as the Patriots have had success with undrafted free agents as well. In fact, New England has had at least one UDFA make the 53-man roster every year since 2004. Just last season, undrafted receivers Gunner Olszewski and Jakobi Meyers were able to make the squad.
So the question is, what kind of role can Thomas have with the Patriots? The first answer that most people will say is in the return game. In 14 punt returns he had in three years at Miami, Thomas averaged 18.9 yards a return and scored one touchdown.
Jeff Thomas goes full MJ in Space Jam to score on the punt return! #ItsAllAboutTheU (@CanesFootball, @theregoes4) pic.twitter.com/otAnCedMLk— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) November 18, 2018
The Patriots don't have a solid option at the return position, and have been looking for Julian Edelman’s replacement at that spot. With his shifty moves and incredible game speed, Thomas can be the answer for the Patriots at returner. He’ll most likely be battling Olszewski and Mohammad Sanu for that spot.
Excited to see what Jeff Thomas can do in New England.— Jamie Gatlin (@JamieGatlin1217) May 13, 2020
- Fast and gifted receiver
- Has the potential to make a big play every time he touches the ball.
- In three seasons at Miami, he had 83 receptions for 1,316 yards.
At receiver, Thomas can also become a part of the Patriots offense. In 2019, running back James White was the second leading receiver for New England, so it’s clear that they’re looking for someone who can take some of the load off of Julian Edelman, much like Danny Amendola did for five years. Many Patriots fans believe Thomas can replace fellow former Miami Hurricane, Phillip Dorsett.
Unlike Dorsett, Thomas is electric with the ball in his hands. His elusiveness in the open field will make defenses pay for playing him soft.— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) May 8, 2020
He gets to top speed quickly, shows solid contact balance, and has excellent vision to punish over pursuing defenders pic.twitter.com/P2WigBYCXE
The Patriots can use him in a plethora of ways, whether it’s in the screen game, lining up in the slot or as a deep-threat. At Miami, Thomas totaled 83 receptions for 1,316 yards and 8 touchdowns. While that may not seem impressive and jump out to you, you really do have to watch Thomas’ game-film to see how special of a football player he is.
In case you forgot, Jeff Thomas is good at football pic.twitter.com/jw3cwNs8el— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) October 10, 2019
With the Hurricanes, as mentioned above, Thomas was most dangerous after the catch, averaging 15.9 yards per reception. Once he’s in the open field, he’s bound to make one or two defenders miss.
#Miami WR #4 Jeff Thomas is so, so exciting. An electric player. pic.twitter.com/Aeg7GpOLlS— Fed Scivittaro (@MeshPointScout) August 25, 2019
If the Patriots want to send Thomas out deep, he’s proven that he can excel in that aspect as well. With the long speed to blow past defensive backs, Thomas could emerge as a deep-ball for New England if they put him on the boundary.
Best of luck to you in your life’s next chapter, Jeff Thomas.— GO ‘CANES! (@83_87_89_91_01) December 14, 2019
Forever a Miami Hurricane. pic.twitter.com/UJBbEo9TTI
When it comes to Thomas, the question isn’t whether or not he has talent, because he does, and lots of it. The biggest concern is his character issues, and if he can buy into the structured system that coach Belichick has developed over the last 20 years. If Thomas can move on from his off-the-field issues, I think there’s a good chance he makes the Patriots 53-man roster.