2024 Dynasty Rookie Early Look: Brian Thomas Jr, WR LSU
Long a devy darling thanks to his tall, sinewy frame and a bounce to his step he perfected on the hardwood, it took Brian Thomas Jr a few years to really find his stride at LSU. Once he did, however, the returns were enormous. He now joins a 2024 receiver class which is immensely talented and deep and offers teams a bit of everything.
Few schools close off the border as well as LSU when it comes to recruiting, and despite strong pushes from both Alabama and Texas A&M, then Tiger head coach Ed Orgeron was able to keep Thomas home as a crucial add to the 2021 recruiting class. Thomas held offers from all the heavy hitters in the SEC, yet ultimately chose LSU despite waiting until national signing day to submit his pledge.
Thomas was 247Sports’ ninth-ranked receiver. Rivals placed him as the 18th player at the position, with On3 slotting him 15th and ESPN 15th as well. He was well-respected across the board, though 247’s ranking appears most apt after a breakout 2023 campaign.
Thomas exploded in year three, taking advantage of Jayden Daniels’ Heisman campaign to go from intriguing talent to high-end prospect. He teamed with Malik Nabers to give the Tigers the nation’s most explosive receiving duo. His 17 touchdowns led college football, and his 1,177 yards placed him 12th nationally. In many years, these numbers would garner Biletnikoff consideration, but this uniquely stacked group of receivers prevented Thomas from even being a finalist.
While the season did not result in any hardware, Thomas can take solace in the fact it propelled him up draft boards. Once perhaps a day three developmental prospect, Thomas is now a legit top 50 talent who can surge into the first round with a strong off-season.
Unfortunately, we do not have any official testing numbers for Thomas. The Opening – a showcase for many of the nation’s top recruit – is often a source for early testing, though Thomas has no history there.
We will need to wait for the Combine to see what Thomas offers athletically. Ultimately, it should not be a huge deal when it comes to his overall profile. He clearly has fluidity on the field. He has the speed to get deep, though it may be more build-up speed, so seeing some splits on the 40-yard dash could be informative. Thomas figures to look like at worst an adequate athlete with more than enough juice to contribute significantly given his traits and production at the highest level of college football.
- Size (some are saying you cannot teach it)
- Shows toolkit to operate as a big slot
- Shows ability to contort at catch point; provides large catch radius
- Chews up yardage after catch with long strides and fluidity
- Releases from line of scrimmage are more basic; technique is not quite there
- Physicality at the line can also be lacking
- He has the frame to add good weight but could use additional mass
We see draft prospects gain serious helium over the course of a season each year. Few go from complete afterthought to possible first-round selection, yet it is a journey Thomas embarked on in 2023. He now routinely finds himself placed highly in early mocks.
Working against Thomas is the sheer depth of the receiver class. It is a high-value position that teams prioritize early, yet how many can sneak into round one? Even if Thomas fails to crack the draft’s first evening, he is a virtual lock for the first three rounds, barring a disastrous offseason.
Thomas is currently ranked 11th overall as the eighth wide receiver, per DLF’s Rookie Rankings (1QB leagues). Being a first-rounder yet eighth at the position is a testament to the depth of this year’s class at wide receiver. He is currently in a tier of receivers with malleable rookie draft value depending on their draft slot and situation.
As the second receiver on his own team, it will be interesting to see what narratives build around Thomas as the off-season hits its peak. Can Thomas carry a passing game? Did he benefit from the attention paid to Nabers? These are worthwhile questions yet far from an indictment on Thomas. We have seen countless instances of multiple receivers within college offenses be NFL producers. Complementary receivers can also offer plenty of value for NFL and fantasy teams alike.
The checkmarks in Thomas’ favor should lead to him carrying strong fantasy value once we embark upon rookie draft season. Should he be attached to a strong quarterback and offensive system, he could even surpass his current standing in rookie draft ADP.