Brian Thomas Jr. - WR - LSU

Brian Thomas Jr. played second fiddle to some talented wide receivers during his time at LSU, but had a massive breakout year as a true junior despite still playing alongside Malik Nabers. Thomas and Nabers combined to be an elite pass-catching duo and contributed in a big way towards Jaden Daniels’ Heisman campaign.

Measurables

Height: 6′ 2″

Weight: 209 lbs

Age: 21

40-yard dash: 4.33s

3-cone drill: DNP

20-yard shuttle: DNP

Vertical Jump: 38.5″

Broad Jump: 10’6″

Bench Press: 11

*age is at the start of player’s rookie year

College Stats

Receiving & Rushing Table
ReceivingRushingScrimmage
YearSchoolConfClassPosGRecYdsAvgTDAttYdsAvgTDPlaysYdsAvgTD
*2021LSUSECFRWR122835912.82263.003036512.22
*2022LSUSECSO133136111.650003136111.65
*2023LSUSECSRWR1368117717.3171-6-6.0069117117.017
CareerLSU127189714.924300.00130189714.624
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 4/9/2024.

Notable Headlines

Brian Thomas and Malik Nabers both came out of high school in the same class, and of the four four-star wide receiver recruits that LSU brought in that year, Thomas and Nabers were the two lower-rated receivers. That being said, Thomas was still top 15 at his position in the 247 Composite Rankings. As a freshman, Thomas made his impact on the team with over 350 receiving yards and 2 receiving touchdowns. The leading receiver on the team was Kayshon Boutte with only 509 yards (in 6 games) as LSU spread the ball around to 6 receivers with over 340 receiving yards. 

The following season was Malik Nabers breakout season with over 1,000 receiving yards. But Brian Thomas stood pat with 361 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. In 2023, veterans Kayshon Boutte and Jaray Jenkins moved on from LSU and that’s when things clicked for Thomas. Both Thomas and Nabers went for over 1,100 receiving yards and over 14 touchdowns each. They were a dynamic duo for Jayden Daniels as the two made it easier for Daniels to take that next step as a passer. At the end of the season, Thomas was named Second-Team All-SEC and declared for the 2024 NFL Draft as a true junior.

Scouting Report

Positives

Brian Thomas provides a great frame as he’s listed at 6’4” and 205 lbs. He pairs that frame with impressive open-field speed and acceleration, allowing him to provide a unique size/speed combination that is actually quite prevalent in this year’s wide receiver draft class. But he pairs that speed and acceleration with a physicality after the catch to provide a very impressive YAC-ability. He’s not afraid of contact and willing to put his shoulder down to fight for some tough yards. And his acceleration and quickness to turn upfield leads to missed tackles and house calls.

As his size would suggest, he has a really impressive extension with a lengthy build that proved to be useful in contested catch situations. At the line of scrimmage, he has an impressive release package with the speed and acceleration to take advantage of it. Additionally, his ball tracking is excellent – already providing an excellent deep-threat skill set for the next level.

Negatives

Thomas has a very all-around skillset without a lot of major concerns. There are a few smaller ones as he’s not a consistent hands catcher, at times letting the ball into his chest. His route tree seemed limited, but mostly appeared to be due to scheme as there were a lot of drag, curl, and go routes without a lot of variety. He could stand to improve as a blocker for his teammates. There were a few lazy routes on tape and there is room for him to improve as a route runner, but was generally at least an above-average route runner on tape.

Pre Draft Analysis

Expected Draft Capital- Late Round 1/Early Round 2

Landing Spots

Brian Thomas already has the skill set to be a consistent WR2 for a team and has the athletic ability, size, and speed to display the potential to be much more. That combination provides a very high floor and high ceiling player that is a perfect target at the end of Round 1 or early in Round 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft. The Carolina Panthers are going to be a common mock target for wide receivers this offseason as they can’t go into next season with what they have. While they’ve already added Diontae Johnson via Free Agency, the draft is still going to have to be used. Maybe the third time’s the charm for LSU wide receivers in Carolina as Terrace Marshall hasn’t been a contributor and DJ Chark seems to be at best a rotation-level wide receiver at this point in his career.

The Tampa Buccaneers are another NFC South team that might be eyeing Brian Thomas at the end of the first round. Both Chris Godwin and Mike Evans’ long-term futures are up in the air as Mike Evans is back with the team for two more seasons and Chris Godwin is a free agent next season. For this season, Thomas would be in the wings learning the playbook and playing sparingly. But if they were to draft Thomas, it would signal a willingness to move on from Godwin next offseason if Thomas shows he’s ready by next offseason with a clear path to the WR1 position by 2025.

The Tampa Buccaneers are another NFC South team that might be eyeing Brian Thomas at the end of the first round. Both Chris Godwin and Mike Evans’ long-term futures are up in the air as Mike Evans is a free agent this offseason and Chris Godwin is a free agent next season. If Evans walks, it would make a lot of sense for Thomas to be the WR2 under Chris Godwin and if he develops to his potential, maybe end up as the WR1 next season. If they retain Evans, draft Thomas, and like what Thomas shows as the WR3 in the offense, they might feel a lot more comfortable letting Godwin walk next offseason and Thomas again gets an opportunity at WR1 shortly in that offense.

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