New England Patriots fans have become accustomed to the ever present undrafted free agent (UDFA) on the roster. Every opening day roster since 2004 has seen one or more UDFAs — a total of 34 players over that span. This year, there are 15 Patriot hopefuls looking to extend the streak and make the final 53. Let’s take a look at each player and how they can make the roster.
We have officially come to the end of the UDFA profile series. It started with a group of commenters talking about potential backup fullbacks two months ago and here we are, 13 profiles later reaching our conclusion and I can’t think of a better player to send us off into the sunset than Jeff Thomas.
If you’ve read literally anything written by local beat writers and bloggers you know that Jeff Thomas is the darling of this year’s UDFA class. The former Miami Hurricane has been labeled as a “talented but troubled” player who always seems to be derailed by something. The biggest question on Thomas is, with the ultimate goal of the NFL so close, can he put it all together? We’ll take a look at what Thomas has done on and off the field, but before that...
Please go and check out the rest of the UDFA profile series below:
- Myles Bryant, CB, Washington
- Rashod Berry, TE/DE, Ohio State
- De’Jon “Scoota” Harris, LB, Arkansas
- Brian Lewerke, QB, Michigan State*
- Bill Murray, DT, William and Mary
- Nick Coe, DE, Auburn
- Kyahva Tezino, LB, SDSU*
- Jake Burt, TE, Boston College
- Sean Riley, WR, Syracuse*
- Will Hastings, WR, Auburn
- J.J. Taylor, RB, Arizona
- J.Mar Smith, QB, Louisiana Tech*
- Isaiah Zuber, WR, Mississippi State*
- Courtney Wallace Jr., DT, Louisiana Tech*
*Released during roster cutdowns from 90 to 80 players
Jeff Thomas’ on the field prowess dates all the way back to high school. The four-star recruit missed his entire junior season because his school was shut down due to a teacher’s strike. In the three seasons he did play, Thomas had 159 catches for 3,175 yards and 32 touchdowns in 39 games. This doesn’t include the playoffs where he happened to lead his team to a state championship victory as a senior (there is a fantastic documentary following Thomas’ high school, East St. Louis, throughout that season that is produced by LeBron James and called 89 Blocks).
Before we get into looking at Thomas as a player I want to get the off-the-field stuff out of the way.
In high school, it was well known that Thomas had a hard time keeping up with his work and attending school. Because of this, he was ruled ineligible for a game as a senior. Those problems persisted he got to Miami. In November of 2018, midway through his sophomore year, Thomas was the team’s leading receiver but was dismissed from the team for failing to live up to Miami’s “high standards of excellence”. Then-head coach Mark Richt retired and new head coach Manny Diaz invited Thomas back onto the team. Thomas ended up getting suspended for two games in 2019 for violation of team rules. He gave up his final year of eligibility to enter the 2020 NFL Draft.
Now let’s see what he looks like on the field.
Here are some of his more notable receptions from 2019. In these clips Thomas shows great ball skills, route running, agility in the open field, speed, and toughness. He’s on the shorter side but Thomas is like a 5-tool wide reciever. pic.twitter.com/9j9j5AlU2d— keagan (@KeaganStiefel) July 27, 2020
If he were to make the roster, Thomas could make an impact immediately as a returner. He has great agility and shiftiness to be a standout punt returner and has exactly what I look for in a kick returner. He picks a lane and goes. Really fun to watch. pic.twitter.com/BgGEUfCzJP— keagan (@KeaganStiefel) July 27, 2020
Overall I give him about 65% chance to make the final roster. In a year with all that is going on that is a very good chance for an UDFA. We obviously haven’t seen much but according to reports he had a great spring. Let’s see if it translates into camp.— keagan (@KeaganStiefel) July 27, 2020
You can probably tell from my tweets that I think the world of Jeff Thomas the football player. He is an uber-talented prospect who can make a difference on the football field.
One question remains, though: Can he stay on the field? He has yet to prove he can. In every stage of his football journey something has derailed him. With the football culture being what it is in New England, you would have to assume they are hoping that is enough to keep him on track. Until he proves he can keep his head down and focus on football, however, the questions will hover. Either way it will definitely be an interesting camp for Jeff Thomas. He might just go ahead and get himself a roster spot.
That will do it for the UDFA Profile series. Thank you guys so much for reading and I hope you learned at least one thing out of it. I will be back with a brand new series later this week!