The first word that comes to mind to describe Tyquan Thornton is “speed.”
Thornton, who was selected 50th overall in the second round of last week’s NFL Draft, will add some elite speed to the New England Patriots’ offense. You probably have heard about his wide receiver-leading 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine — one of the main reasons the speed-deficient Patriots traded up to get him aboard.
New England’s director of player personnel Matt Groh basically said so himself shortly after Thornton was picked by his team.
“I don’t know how many guys out there are faster than Tyquan,” Groh said in a media conference call on Saturday. “So, we’re really excited to be able to add him and his explosive play making. He is fast.”
Thornton’s speed is rare, which regularly allowed him to get behind opposing defenses during his four-year career at Baylor. His overall production did not necessarily reflect it, though, and did not stand out compared to some of his peers.
What was the problem? One part of the reason why Thornton caught only 143 passes for 2,242 yards and 19 touchdowns in 47 career games was uneven quarterback play; the Bears struggled in this department which had a negative effect on the team’s pass catchers as well.
Additionally, the team experienced a coaching change between his sophomore and junior campaigns. Nonetheless, Thornton appears to be appreciative for the opportunities he was given in college.
“I feel like playing at Baylor they prepared me pretty well,” he said. “Just running different offenses for the first few years, my freshman and sophomore year and then Coach Brown coming in and bringing in a different offense, you know? I feel like they got me prepared as far as site adjustments and converting the routes as well. I learned all positions, the L to the Z, so I’m not just learning just one position. You’ve got to learn the whole concept.”
Accordingly, Thornton sees himself as a versatile player rather than one capable of solely winning because of his game-breaking speed.
“I would describe [my style of play] as very versatile, and I’m very coachable,” the 21-year-old said. “Just being here at New England, getting ready to work with the coaches, I would love to adjust my style and critique it any way I could. I’m willing to learn and grow. Definitely. ...
“I try to model my game after Davante Adams. I just love how he creates separation at the top of the route and at the line of scrimmage as well. I try to mimic that a little bit with my releases and my route running, while adding speed to it.”
Thornton was able to showcase his abilities at the East-West Shrine Bowl, where he was one of the standout performers. The Patriots had a close eye on him that day, and eventually made him the first participant of the all-star game to hear his name called in this year’s draft.
What they saw at the Shrine Bowl was a player who was capable of much more than just taking the top off of defenses. Instead, they saw Thornton as a player who could help them in multiple ways.
“This isn’t just a linear guy,” Groh said. “You see him really be able to get off the line. And for as fast as he is ... to be able to see him get in the red zone and do some things, and it’s not just speed, it’s 6-foot-2, ability to get up and really pluck the ball out of the air. So, there’s going to be a lot of different things that he’s going to be able to do to help.”