KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs addressed offense in the fourth round (124th overall) with an explosive player after going defense with the previous two picks.
Needing a replacement for wide receiver/punt returner Dexter McCluster, who signed a free-agent contract with Tennessee Titans, the Chiefs effectively filled it with the selection of Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas.
“He’s just an explosive playmaker,” said Trey Koziol, the Chiefs West Coast area scout. “He’s got world-class speed, ran track on the Oregon track & field team up there, which is one of the better programs in the country.”
With Thomas, the Chiefs have a player who can play running back, wide receiver and return specialist.
The native of Los Angeles left Oregon holding school records in kickoff return yards (1,885 yards) and punt return average (17.13 yards). He has five special teams touchdowns (four kickoff returns, one punt return).
Thomas, who measured 5-foot-9, 174 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, finished his career at Oregon with 113 catches for 1,296 yards, 243 carries for 1,890 yards and 41 touchdowns (26 rushing).
“When you got a guy who’s got kind of a Swiss army knife-type versatility, you can move him all over the place,” Koziol said. “Just look for the best mismatch and I’ll leave that up to the coach and the offensive staff.
“But from a scouting perspective, I think he has all the physical tools that you could look for in the receiving game as well. He catches the ball very, very well.”
The Chiefs are likely to take advantage of Thomas’ unique skillset, and especially his game-changing speed.
Despite running a 4.50 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, Thomas made up for that during his Pro Day by recording a 4.39. But running in a controlled environment clearly didn’t affect Koziol’s assessment of Thomas.
“When it comes down to it, you have to look at what you see on tape, too,” Koziol said. “The one thing that the Pac-12 has is a lot of speed. You don’t see this kid get caught from behind, you see him pulling away from the pack … The tape doesn’t lie with that speed and explosiveness.”
Meanwhile, the addition of Thomas gives the Chiefs four running backs on the roster. He joins Jamaal Charles, Knile Davis, Cyrus Gray and Joe McKnight.
With a role yet to be determined, Thomas said he looks forward to contributing wherever the Chiefs put him in.
“I’m just ready to play some NFL football,” Thomas said. “I’m just ready to contribute to the Chiefs organization.”