In last year’s draft, the Miami Dolphins surprised everyone by trading their third (79th), fifth (146th), and seventh (217th) round picks with the Washington Redskins to move up to the second (62nd) round to grab Kansas State’s RB Daniel Thomas. Similar to most of the scouting reports on Thomas, the Dolphins had a very high draft grade on the big, physical, bruising, and hard-nosed RB. Unfortunately, his advertised power, execution, and explosiveness were inconsistently demonstrated during his rookie season. This year, there will be high expectations for Thomas.
The Dolphins traded away picks to invest an early round pick on Thomas, who was essentially brought in to take the place of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. These were some pretty big shoes to fill considering that Brown and Williams combined for over 22 carries per game in 2010. With expectations running high, Thomas finished with only a subpar year. Because of injuries, he played in just 13 games, averaging only 3.5 yards per carry with just 581 yards and zero rushing touchdowns.
Despite ending the year with overall mediocre stats, Thomas did show early signs of being a second round talent against the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns. In these two games, he averaged 4.9 yards per carry with 202 rushing yards, 37 receiving yards, and a touchdown reception. The fans got a little taste of his potential and were restless to see him have his break out game.
However, as each week went by, his number of carries and rushing yards dramatically dwindled. His role in the offense became in question as he struggled with his health and effectiveness. To the chagrin of many fans, Thomas failed to bulldoze himself in the end zone in goal line situations on several occasions, which is his bread and butter.
To add injury to insult, there were other RBs in the league drafted after Thomas who were putting up solid numbers. For example, DeMarco Murray (71st) had an outstanding season with the Dallas Cowboys, averaging 5.5 yards per carry for 897 yards and two touchdowns. Roy Helu (105th) was able to average 4.2 yards per carry for 640 yards and two touchdowns for the Washington Redskins. Stevan Ridley (73rd) posted a dazzling 5.1 yards per carry for 441 yards and one touchdown for the New England Patriots. Although these guys did not necessarily have a ton of rushing yards, their overall averages per carry were impressive.
But to his credit, Thomas was battling hamstring injuries during most of the season. RB Reggie Bush was also having his breakout year, taking over most of the carries each game. Finally, Thomas was running behind a terrible right side of an offensive line. In fact, the Dolphins were ranked 31st in the league when they ran the ball to the right side, averaging just 2.27 yards per carry as a team. That would be the side where FORMER Dolphins, RG Vernon Carey and RT Marc Colombo, used to “hold down the fort.”
On the bright side, 2012 is a whole new year and everyone will begin training camp with a clean slate. Thomas will compete for playing time and will be pushed by both Bush and the recently drafted fourth round speedster from The U, Lamar Miller. The stakes are high and the competition should bring out the best in all three RBs. Not to mention, they will be running behind a much improved offensive line with the addition of the second round Stanford stud, Jonathan Martin, and a healthy veteran in Lydon Murtha.
We all have high expectations this year for Thomas. Despite his struggles to excel in his rookie season, I’m still a huge supporter and believe his second year will be much better. I love the fact that he is a physical, yet slippery, downfield runner, who has the ability to find space running between the tackles. If he can stay healthy playing with a new coaching staff using a West Coast Offense and revamped offensive line, I have faith in his ability to break out of his shell. Most importantly, I think he will prove his second round grade and exceed expectations. Go get em’ Thomas!
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