Coming off arguably the best season by a wide receiver in Southern Miss history, wide receiver Mike Thomas stated his case in impressive fashion to NFL scouts at the Southern Miss Golden Eagles Pro Day.
Thomas, with 1,391 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns as a senior, was the player to watch at pro day. Thomas ran a 40 that was reportedly in the 4.4 range in the rain while also showing off an impressive 36.5 inch vertical leap and a 10-6 broad jump.
All three would have put him in the upper echelon of wide receivers at the combine as only nine receivers broke 4.5 in the 40, his vertical jump tied for sixth among receivers, and his broad jump tied him for the ninth best in the combine.
For those that have seen Thomas play, it has been no secret the type of physical freak of nature the 6-1 wide receiver has been. Not being able to show off his physical skills may hurt him in the court of popular opinion.
Thomas has been about much more than physical skill in his college career. In his two seasons at Southern Miss, he turned into one of the better route runners in Conference USA. That was evident on pro day with NFL scouts remarking how smooth he looked in his cuts. He still has the tendency to round off some routes, but the majority of his routes are fairly crisp.
Defensive back Kalan Reed was another Golden Eagle to impress scouts with his explosiveness. One thing that was mentioned throughout the NFL combine, which Reed was not invited, was the lack of explosion in the 40 from the groups. Reed ran a 4.38 and jumped a 41.5 inch vertical, showing off the explosion that is coveted by NFL teams.
He could sneak into the back end of the NFL draft with this performance, in addition to the film of the 2015 season. Teams are not quite sold on his stature, but love his willingness to mix it up in the running game and make tackles.
Slot receiver Casey Martin was the other Southern Miss player to stand out for NFL scouts at pro day. The former Houston Cougar turned Golden Eagle, was very good in the 40 at 4.49 and much stronger than expected with 23 repetitions of 225 on the bench press.
So, how did Southern Miss pro day affect each of their NFL draft prospects?
I hate to sound like a homer, but all three players improved their grades with very good performances. Let's look at each player and what their prospects are for professional football.
After not competing in the NFL Draft Combine, Thomas checked off all of the boxes from NFL teams. He is ranked as a projected sixth round draft pick, but he could easily go much further with teams needing a deep threat that can come in and play immediately. I see him going in the fourth or fifth round to a team like the Eagles or even the Patriots, teams that are desperate to find that deep receiver that can stretch the field.
The cornerback may have outdone Thomas on pro day with ridiculous numbers in the 40 and vertical jump. One of his biggest question marks was his speed, but a 4.38 run in the 40 should have changed some minds. He is unlikely to be drafted with several other good cornerbacks in the draft, but he could be a steal for a team looking to play him as a nickel in his first few seasons. If he is given the right opportunity, he should be able to make a roster or at least practice squad in 2016.
A white guy at 5-10, 175 pounds, Martin will immediately get the comparisons to Wes Welker and Julian Edelman. Those comparisons are not without merit as Martin is a productive slot receiver that knows how to use his quickness to get open. Players like Martin tend to get overlooked compared to the 6-4, 210 pound physical specimens that come out of college yearly. Martin will not get drafted, but should get signed as an undrafted free agent. He can make the right roster with the right team. His best bet is to make a practice squad and wait for the future, or try his trade in the CFL. He will play somewhere professionally.