Every player’s road to the NFL is different. Some take the traditional route by spending three to four years at a division one school before entering the draft. Then there are some players who have to grind their way through the JUCO or FCS ranks before getting a shot with an NFL team.
Roc Thomas is one of those players who’s taken an alternative route to the NFL. He started his college career at Auburn where he played two seasons before transferring to Jacksonville State. Thomas was a five-star recruit out of high school and was projected to be the workhorse back for the Auburn Tigers after he signed his letter of intent with the team. Unfortunately, the competition for touches discouraged Thomas and ultimately, caused him to transfer to Jacksonville State.
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Statistics from stats.washingtonpost.com.
Thomas rushed for 475 and three touchdowns during his two-year stint at Auburn. He struggled to stand out from the pack. Cameron Artis-Payne, Peyton Barber, Jovon Robinson and Kerryon Johnson all received more carries than him during his freshman and sophomore seasons. There were too many cooks in the kitchen and there wasn’t enough elbow room to scramble some eggs. This caused Thomas to transfer to Jacksonville State where he had the chance to work in a full-time role.
During his junior season at his new school, Thomas rushed for 782 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games. He was fairly efficient, rushing for 6.2 yards per carry. He received All-OVC First-Team honors. Nagging injuries caused him to miss a few games in 2016, including a devastating concussion that caused him to miss some time.
In his final year, he suited up for 12 games and rushed for 1,065 yards and 13 touchdowns. He had five games with over 100 yards rushing. Thomas was added to the Walter Payton Award watch list in mid-October. The award signifies the best offensive player in the FCS.
If you’re too slow, small or even too big, the odds are against you succeeding in the NFL. Running back prospects need a requisite size-speed ratio in order to be able to hang with the big-boys. With that being said, let’s take a look at Thomas’ Mock Draftable athletic profile to see how he stacks up against his peers.
There are a lot of red flags on his athletic profile. His size-adjusted speed is less than optimal, considering he weighs less than 200 pounds and runs a 4.56 40-yard dash. Players who weigh 200 pounds or less generally need to run their 40-yard dash in the low 4.4s in order to have enough speed to compete at the next level. There were some slower small running backs that found success, but they are few and far between. The Andre Ellingtons of the world are the exception and not the rule when it comes to size-adjusted speed.
The bright spot here is his burst score. The combination of his 35.5-inch vertical and 125-inch broad jump suggests that he’s a very explosive athlete. This means he accelerates well and is capable of changing speeds while running the football.
His comparable list isn’t very fun. Marlon Mack might be the best back on the list, but Mack is a heavier back and due to that, I don’t consider him a close comparison. Andre Ellington is another key name on his comparable list. The two backs are similar in size, Ellington is a shade slower, but they are very comparable when it comes to athleticism.
In the highlight clip below, Thomas rushes for 122 yards and one touchdown against Chattanooga. He also flashes some of his receiving ability by catching three passes for 68 yards. It’s hard to find film on him, but this game provides a solid depiction of who he is as a runner.
With solid burst, Thomas can flash through the second level of the defense for positive gains. His quick-twitch movements allow him to move laterally very well. He runs bigger than his listed weight and he’s not afraid to run through contact to gain extra yards. Thomas has some juice and he is very dangerous once he hits the open field.
Field vision and patience are the major concerns for Thomas. He gets too antsy and doesn’t wait for his blocks to set up. This leads to him not being able to see the open holes that are developing in front of him. He’s more likely to try for the home run than take what’s given to him. Thomas also lacks that final gear that allows him to pull away from the defense at the end of his runs. With that being said, he’s not a threat to score from anywhere on the field.
Player ADP and more information can be found on their DLF player page.
With a Dynasty ADP of 237.33, Thomas is virtually free in startup drafts. This isn’t a surprise, considering he’s an FCS back who isn’t rendering a lot of hype. He also carries a 47.70 rookie ADP, making him a late fourth-round pick in rookie drafts. Considering how deep this class is at running back, it’s easy to see him falling to the later rounds and could possibly go undrafted in rookie drafts if he goes to a bad situation. The DLF staff has him ranked as the 19th-best back in this class and that coincides with his rookie ADP, because he’s typically the 19th running backs off the board in drafts.
At this point, Thomas ‘is what he is’. He’s an end-of-bench flyer who has the juice to make something happen if he goes to the right team. His current value is a reflection of this and whether or not he will see the field on a regular basis will dictate his long-term value in dynasty.
If you’re going to stash a player on your taxi squad who has plenty of upside, then Thomas is your guy. There’s a good chance he can carve out a role with his new team if he gets an opportunity to showcase his abilities. Snaps and playing time will be limited for him in training camp and preseason, so he will need to maximize every single touch he gets in practice and in scrimmages. He has enough zest to climb the depth chart if things go his way. I’m not over the moon for him, but I still wouldn’t mind having him on a few of my rosters. Don’t forget about Thomas when it comes time for your rookie drafts.