Will Jay Gruden look for a fast, shifty running back in the draft next month?
The Bengals drafted Giovani Bernard out of North Carolina a year ago and Gruden put him to good use, giving the rookie 170 carries for 695 yards and having Andy Dalton throw him 56 passes for 514 yards. Bernard made SportsCenter quality plays all year long.
A player who is very much like Bernard in this year’s draft is De’Anthony Thomas of Oregon. He might be even more electric than Bernard. They are both 5-9 but Bernard is a bit heavier, around 200 compared to 175 for Thomas. Both ran the 40 in right around 4.5 seconds.
Thomas is viewed as a potential game changer, a weapon for the offense of today. "Because of his speed and playmaking ability, in today's NFL he's more valuable than he would have been six, eight, 10 years ago," said Mike Mayock of the NFL Network. "He's a kickoff guy, plus we got to get him 10 touches a game. How do we manufacture those 8 to 10 touches a game so he can make those plays for us that he did at Oregon?"
Thomas is not an every-down back or even much more than a gadget player. That could push his draft stock down to where the Redskins are comfortable taking him to give the offense and special teams another home run threat.
Mayock said that Thomas is a fourth-rounder. The Redskins might not be interested there but may find him hard to resist if he slips through the fourth and is still sitting there when they are on the clock with the second pick of the fifth round.