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Mikel Leshoure vs. Daniel Thomas (1 Viewer)

Bob Magaw

with mark ingram and ryan williams fairly non-controversial picks at RB1 & RB2 from class of '11 (in dynasty leagues), the choices at RB3 & RB4 don't appear to be as scratch... i was in some earlier dynasty drafts, but not in position to draft either leshoure or thomas, when in a more recent draft, was presented with this choice...

before elaborating, in passing, i can see why ingram is so coveted... his physical traits, game and running style are eerily reminiscent of emmitt smith... that said, williams and leshoure look like easily the most explosive among the front line RB prospects from this class (arguably shane vereen deserves inclusion in this category?)... i was extremely impressed with what i have seen of williams, a gifted runner with rare burst and explosiveness...

back to leshoure and thomas, after some semi-intensive research, below are some of the potentially salient differentiating factors between them (with selective commentary)... BTW, initially, i was heavily leaning towards leshoure... his ability to run away from defenders stood out on film... conversely, the first time i examined thomas, i thought he looked pedestrian, almost plodding and ponderous... however, one report (PFW or USA today?) implied that leshoure seemed to like to break runs outside too often... this seemed to be confirmed (at least in highlights)... in fairness, some of the RBs in recent years that have had issues with this (reggie bush and CJ spiller, for instance) were considerably smaller... even if this is conceded to be a valid concern, given his far greater size/power, leshoure would seem to be far better positioned to ADAPT and modify his running style in a more forward vector, if the need arises...

after looking at thomas more closely, the impression left was far more favorable than the initial one... for a big man, he has the movement skills and COD ability of a much smaller back... while leshoure may make more explosive cuts to beat a single defender, thomas may be shiftier, with niftier feet in a crowd and superior elusiveness in close quarters... leshoure did seem to have a lot of success breaking plays outside, but those kinds of opportunities may not afford themselves as often at the next level... thomas seemed very adept at taking what he was given... even if he didn't break a lot of 40+ yard runs, he generally got positive yards...

the little i saw thomas catch, he looked very natural doing so, and imo this could be a big X-factor in his future fantasy production... while he was listed at 6'2" earlier in the scouting process, at the combine, he measured 6'0" 230 lbs, a near doppleganger to leshoure (5'11.5", 227 lbs.)... they had very similar 40 times, with leshoure clocking in the 4.55 neighborhood at the combine (thomas was unable to run at the combine due to a lingering hamstring injury, but ran in the 4.55-4.6 region at his pro day)... leshoure looks noticeably faster and more explosive down the field, so perhaps his speed is somewhat of the build up variant (?)... leshoure launched a stratospheric 38" vertical jump at the combine... thomas was unable to provide one at the combine (or pro day?)... he appears to have at least adequate hops on a play that starts about the 2:11 mark in below highlights, in which he vaults over/through the line for a TD...

imo a key variable for leshoure is the presence of best... people who deservedly question his durability (also hurt multiple times at cal) may be more optimistic... in the end, i was reluctant to gamble on future injuries... while it is obviously true that MIA could add a better RB than thomas at any point in the near/mid/longer-term future, that is speculative... ronnie brown or ricky williams could return (though not likely both), but williams is clearly in the twilight of his career, and brown doesn't look like the future anymore, either... if thomas runs with the opportunity, it decreases the chance that MIA looks elsewhere for a serious challenger to his potential role as primary RB (whether through free agency, though it would be a surprise if the dolphins don't look for at least a complementary, situational RB... or in the draft, given that they are a team that still has multiple holes on both sides of the ball)... whereas best is ALREADY on the DET roster, that is a given... if best stumbles or falters, i do think leshoure has the talent to encroach on best's share of the RBBC distribution... if not, it could be a situation similar to CAR past few years, where deangelo williams was talented enough to suppress jonathan stewart's role to that of an at times subordinate one (though they both had 1,100 yards few years ago, an NFL first?)...

i don't have a clear comp player that comes immediately to mind for leshoure... maybe a smaller, less powerful and possibly slower version of michael turner and steven jackson (both were prep sprinters)... thomas has been likened to matt forte... forte is taller (6'2"), not quite as big (220-225 lbs.), and was faster (4.4 at his combine)... forte has excellent hands... while many of the top receiving RBs in last decade or so have been in 200-210 lb. range (faulk, westbrook, bush), mayock observed that thomas was split out wide like a WR at times, very atypical for a 230 lb RB... without directly comparing thomas to either of the RB comps i'm about to cite IN ISOLATION, i see him as a kind of hybrid of two other high cut RBs with upright running styles, that may not have had the flashy kind of rare burst and explosiveness in the open field of an eric dickerson or adrian peterson (two more high cut, upright runners), but were very successful taking what the defense gave them, and nearly always gained positive yards and had a knack for falling forward... eddie george and, going further back, marcus allen... while not as strong or punishing as george (listed 6'3" 235 lbs.), there are some similarities in running style, and thomas may have superior feet, COD and elusiveness... while not as supremely economical and effortless a runner as allen (6'2" 210 lbs.), he has a very smooth and gliding gait for a RB 20 lbs heavier... thomas parallels allen athletically in being a converted prep QB...

both leshoure and thomas have well rounded, three down skill sets with the requisite size and power to be goal line weapons... leshoure is unmistakably the superior breakaway threat... thomas may be a more polished and refined receiver out of the backfield... a concern with best is that, IF healthy, he has the kind of talent to compel a snap count skewing the distribution of carries more in the direction of a pure RBBC... if MIA adds a less incendiary talent in the backfield, it could be more to spell thomas during games and over the season, but during which he might not need to leave the field for long stretches...



- impressive size/speed combination (also, elite 38" VJ at combine)

- explosive cutting ability

- highlights flash physicality, contact balance and tackle breaking power (though mayock expressed concerns here)

- dangerous top end, long speed

- has shown promise in pass protection and catching out of the backfield

- potentially outstanding, young supporting cast (stafford, best, calvin johnson, titus young, pettigrew/scheffler)

- size/power could make him hard to keep off field (despite talented best), and obvious goal line candidate


- few off field incidents (claims to have matured)

- seems to have tendency to bounce runs outside, this generally isn't as viable a strategy against faster NFL defenders

- the presence of 2010 1st round RB jahvid best makes his projection murky and shrouded in uncertainty

- OL on paper suffers in comparison with MIA (in both run blocking and pass protection)

highlights... long at 10 min., but you don't have to watch that long to get the gist of the good (and bad :) ) in microcosm...

scouting report excerpt by tye burger, of KS blog BOTC (bring on the cats)... imo, not a gushing puff piece on thomas by a homer, but a balanced appraisal and summation of his strengths and weaknesses...


"Reading the comments at The Phinsider has shown me a decidedly mixed reaction to the Dolphins' decision to trade up and draft Thomas late in the second round. And "mixed" may be generous. A lot of you are worried that Thomas is too slow, too upright, too un-durable, too fumble-prone, and not sufficiently powerful given his lack of speed.

All of this may be correct. I'm sure you want the K-State "insider" to come riding in on his purple horse and tell you everything will be alright. While I'd like to do that, and while I think Thomas could be a solid player in the NFL, I can't make any guarantees. I've read through a couple of your comment threads reacting to the Thomas pick, so I've picked out some of the concerns expressed and will respond to them.

First, I'll start with the positives. While Daniel Thomas is not the flashiest back, and has no particular attribute that stands out, he just gets the job done. His stats for his two seasons at K-State are listed above, and he led the Big 12 in rushing both seasons. He averaged more than one rushing touchdown per game for his career. And he did that all playing for a team with this guy at quarterback in 2009-10, or in 2008-09 a guy whose shoulder was hanging on by a few muscle fibers and wishful thinking. To illustrate the point, in 2008-09, Thomas put up the numbers he did with two quarterbacks who combined for six touchdown passes and eight interceptions. The Wildcats would have been only slightly worse throwing the ball had I been out there at QB.

As a point of comparison, I've seen some Phinsider members point out that they would have preferred picking Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter over Thomas. I can't argue against Hunter, who is a fine back. But Hunter played on a team with Brandon Weeden at QB (342/511, 34 TDs, 13 INTs, 329 yards/game) and Justin Blackmon at wide receiver (111 receptions, 1,782 yards, 20 TDs, 148.5 yards/game in only 12 games). Hunter had weapons all over the field around him, while Thomas had none of that. Every defense that K-State faced knew that Thomas was going to get the ball at least 1/3 of the time. Beyond that, opposing defenses really had no fear that anyone else would beat them, especially after shattered leg bones ended the seasons of our two best wide receivers.

Another issue that I've seen is Thomas' durability. During the pre-draft, there was some question that a hamstring injury was nagging Thomas, and suddenly everyone was wondering if he had the wherewithal to be an NFL back. One of our beat writers did some digging and found that the hamstring injury may have been due to dehydration. Whether you buy that or not, I'd put more stock in Thomas' body of work over two full season of football, rather than one offseason. In two seasons, Thomas carried the ball 545 times and didn't miss any playing time. Rumor was that he had a bum shoulder during his junior season, but if he did, he powered through it and led the Big 12 in rushing. Reasonable minds can disagree, but I'd rather have a player who I know can play through injuries than a player who sits out with a hangnail.

Before I get to Thomas' possible downside, there's one more positive to address. Again, I'm not a big NFL fan, but if I'm remembering correctly -- and I drink beer, like, every night, so my memory is failing me -- Miami was the first NFL team to implement the Wildcat formation, and still uses it to some degree. If that's the case, then Thomas is the prototype running back for Miami. K-State ran the Wildcat fairly often, always with Thomas taking the snap. Thomas was a quarterback in junior college before he came to K-State. He doesn't have the most accurate arm, but he's better at completing a pass than your average running back, and his familiarity with the quarterback position makes him comfortable taking snaps and executing fakes in the backfield. Last season, he completed four of his eight pass attempts, unfortunately throwing one interception against his only touchdown. In any event, he's a credible passing threat who opposing defenses will have to take seriously, even if most of what he does out of the Wildcat formation is run a midline option or sweep.

But enough of the positives, let's look at the causes for concern with Thomas. One that I've seen over and over is Thomas' ball security issues. I can't find statistics on it, but suffice to say that putting the ball on the turf was a concern with Thomas in his two years at K-State. As a natural quarterback, Thomas had to work through a tendency to carry the ball too loosely. Things seemed to improve as time wore on, and while again I don't have any stats on it, my feeling was that Thomas did a much better job of protecting the pigskin by the end of last season. How that translates to the NFL is anyone's guess. Maybe Thomas has worked on his technique and this will be a thing of the past, but it's an open question at this point.

Another criticism I've seen repeatedly is that Thomas lacks burst. This is absolutely true. Thomas is not an explosive runner who is likely to put his outside foot down and blow by an entire defense. He's more of a grinder, a guy who you can give the ball to a lot and will pick his away around for three yards here, two yards here, and six yards here. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry for a career in which every defense he faced expected him to get the ball on almost every play. While he's not a home-run hitter, he is very patient, he is very good at reading his blocks, and he will make the best of the situation in which he finds himself. If that means he has to fight to the death for two yards, then he'll do it. If it means that he can bounce a run outside for a 20+ yard gain, he can do that, too. While I know that everyone likes the home-run hitter, there's a place for the guy who doesn't hit for power, but hits for average and a high OBP.

Finally, no discussion of Thomas would be complete without mentioning his running style. Again, as a former quarterback, I agree that Thomas tend to run very upright. Running upright never seemed to be a problem for Thomas in college, as he never missed a game, or any real playing time, to injury. But I can see why this is an area of concern. Upright runners tend to get shredded in the NFL. Look no further than Ron Dayne, a humongous bruiser whose career was sidetracked by high-ankle sprains. Other than working on ball security, I think keeping pad level down will be Thomas' biggest area to work on. At 6'2", 228 lbs., Thomas was big enough in college that he could match up physically with most linebackers, and overpower any defensive backs. Beyond that, he's just shifty enough that he can avoid big hits. That may not be the case in the NFL, so he'll have to learn new ways to protect himself, and keeping his pads down will be a priority.

So that pretty much sums it up for what I have to say about Thomas. We really enjoyed watching Thomas play at K-State, and if we hadn't had him, it's highly unlikely that K-State would have posted an overall winning record (barely) the past two seasons. No matter what his other limitations may be, you'll never be able to say that Thomas didn't give you maximum effort on every play. Whether he has the talent to make that effort translate into the production you're looking for from a second-round draft pick is still anyone's guess."

* edit/add - a few aditional thoughts...

leshoure... HC jim schwartz stated the possibility that the use of leshoure (and best) could vary from week to week, dictated by opponent-specific game plans... that doesn't sound like a clearly defined role... but contradicting this is the expectation that he will be the short yardage/goal line back... the combination of leshoure's size & best's injury history may increase the chance that they use leshoure liberally to prevent best from breaking down late in the season (or early in the season)... and the bottom line is, the better leshoure plays, the greater chance he carves out a larger role for himself...

thomas... as to MIA lacking receiving weapons after marshall, davone bess is a very good short/intermediate slot weapon... fasano not the most dynamic playmaker, but can be effective... fellow-day two rookie edmond gates came from same small school (abilene christian) as CHIs johnny knox, and has similar blazing speed... his development could be important to thomas, if he is able to back safeties out of the box due to vertical threat... while thomas does run upright, imo he appears to have the vision, instincts, field awareness, body control, agility and athleticism to position his body through anticipation or twisting to turn kill shots into glancing blow (the iconic christian okoye/steve atwater summit is an enduring example of NOT having this quality - but in fairness to the nigerian nightmare, he was not only relatively new to the position of RB, like thomas, but to the game of football itself... what a freak and physical specimen, though... i think he was national champion in the 100 AND shot put, the resume of a cartoon character)...

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In 59 zealots draft ryans Williams adp is 4.61 and Daniel Thomas is 4.73, don't think that makes one clearly the higher pick.

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In 59 zealots draft ryans Williams adp is 4.61 and Daniel Thomas is 4.73, don't think that makes one clearly the higher pick.
good point, didn't realize ADP data was that close... BTW, what is it for leshoure?
5.56, i would take Vereen ahead of all of them, except maybe Williams.
I would go Williams, Vereen, LeShoure, Thomas. I just don't think Thomas is that good, though he does have a nice opportunity for touches.
I like Leshoure's talent more, but I like Thomas' opportunity. I would take Thomas if I was facing a choice.
I agree as of this moment, Thomas has a much better opportunity looking forward, but I would still take Leshoure in a heart beat on his talent alone.
I think Leshoure and Thomas are about equally talented, but Thomas is in a much better situation. Im not very confident that either will be good RB's, so i might trade up or down if i was in a position to draft either.

I would take Thomas as hes got the opp to start, I think the Fins will most likely re-sign Brown to share the load before they pay the $$$$$ for D-Wil; but being that Thomas will be 24 by mid season you want to consider moving him in the next 2 to 3 yrs.

The problem I see with Williams and Leshoure is they are going to have Wells and best to contend with during most of their careers. Great for the football team, not so good for your FF team.

thanx to everybody for the feedback...

i'm curious for those that prefer leshoure, is there anything else other than the obvious (ie - noticeably faster and explosive in the open field, ability to run away from defenders)?

and do some think, based on what they have seen, thomas is too slow to be a feature RB (or to keep the job)?

i guess one of the points i was trying to make... i think they are both good, but there are different ways to be good... speaking to how my impression changed, leshoure just looked like a far sexier pick initially... after a closer look, i began to like thomas more and more after scrutinizing beyond the first pass...

dickerson/peterson and allen/george were/are all good, and in different ways... don't get me wrong, i'd rather have the former than latter if given a choice (in their prime), but they are hard to come by (and anyways, leshoure doesn't look like he belongs in quite that blue chip, elite category... very few RBs are)... but we can probably all think of RBs that didn't have scorching, breakaway speed, but that were highly productive and very valuable... conversely, there have been a lot of RBs that were extremely fast, but floundered...

BTW, for those that think thomas is a stiff but are tempted by the opportunity, imo it is very dangerous to chase opportunity when not accompanied by talent (ESPECIALLY in dynasty leagues, where catastrophic errors linger longer than just the next season's shuffling of the deck)... i have gotten scalded in the past by taking RB like shelton (louisville before michael bush? i blacked out his full name because it was too painful & traumatic :) ) and WR duane jarrett, both with CAR, because the opportunity seemed attractive... shelton has been out of the league for years, and it wouldn't surprise me if jarrett is already, or will be soon...

I know game speed is different, but its not like Leshoure is a 4.4 guy. He ran a 4.56 compared to a 4.6 by Thomas. Neither is going to make a living in the NFL running away from defenders. This is part of the reason i dont like Leshoure, he isnt going to be able to do what he was doing in college in the NFL.

Great piece Bob. Are Williams credentials that much better than Lesh and Thomas?

Water muddies after Ingram and I can see some talent on the WR end that seems easier to translate to the next level.

This RB class appears weak to me and I do not see a standout past Ingram.

Crapshoot from Williams to Spann IMO.

Just to add a little something...these rankings are from http://fantasyfootballmetrics.com

#1 = Mikel Leshoure, Detroit Lions (Illinois)...Leshoure was our #1 rated "power RB" for the 2011 NFL Draft, however, Jahvid Best poses a major threat to his productivity. With Kendall Hunter (below), you can see the end is near for Gore. For Leshoure, Jahvid Best isn't old and also grades out elite as well. Leshoure will get carries and likely be the better Fantasy Football pick over Best, as Leshoure will probably get the short yardage/TD work. Leshoure is a potentially very good/great NFL RB, without Best in the way he would be a no-brainer #1 on this list. Leshoure has great size (6'0, 227) with decent speed and very good agility, plus he had a tremendous statistical year in a power conference in 2010 with 1,697 yards and 20 TDs. BEST COLLEGE DATA MATCH = Toby Gerhart (with many LaDainian Tomlinson tendencies)

#17 = Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins (Kansas State)...Thomas is rated higher on this Mock, than he is rated in our individual player analysis, due to the void in the Dolphins RB situation. The opportunity for Thomas to play early/more is higher than many on this list. We are not seeing potential NFL elite based on him physically, he is big (so are a lot of RBs)...but more on the slower side, and not overly powerful. Fairly productive in college, but with some minor red-flags on performance enhanced by weakness of opponents. Not really thrilled with Thomas overall, but landed in a decent spot to play early. BEST COLLEGE DATA MATCH = Anthony Dixon

Great piece Bob. Are Williams credentials that much better than Lesh and Thomas?

Water muddies after Ingram and I can see some talent on the WR end that seems easier to translate to the next level.

This RB class appears weak to me and I do not see a standout past Ingram.

Crapshoot from Williams to Spann IMO.
Agreed, other than a handful of guys that i just dont like, i had a hard time between the other 10. I knew i wasnt going to have Leshoure, Carter, Ridley, Royster or Alexander Green on any of my teams. Other than that, i tried to get at least one of the rest on at least one of my teams. With Ingram and Vereen the only two i really wanted. Its nothing but getting lucky after them two though.

loose ends dept. (commentary to follow)

i'll expand on some of these later, but added williams and vereen, since they have each been named in the thread several times... also, depending on team need (or just straight up on preceived/actual talent, opportunity, etc.), some may prefer WRs like greg little or randall cobb at this juncture of the draft... little is one impressive humanoid :) , and cobb has some similarities to jennings in terms of size, skill, pedigree (both 2nd rounders), and could be starting in one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the league in a year or two... he also has a multifaceted skill set somewhat reminiscent of hines ward...

ryan williams

5'9" 212 lbs., 4.55-4.6 40, 40" VJ

2009 highlights


shane vereen

5'10" 210 lbs., 4.5 40, 34" VJ (extremely impressive 31 reps at 225 lbs)

combined highlights

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