Kansas City Chiefs Must Find a Role for De’Anthony Thomas


After a successful career at Oregon, the Kansas City Chiefs drafted De’Anthony Thomas in the fourth round (124th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft. Thomas entered the league with raw play-making skills and a major question on where he would fit in on NFL offenses.

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While it was in a fairly limited basis, the Chiefs were able to find a role for Thomas as a rookie in 2014. He was the primary punt returner for the Chiefs down the stretch, with 34 punt returns for 405 yards on the season, which was the second most punt return yardage in the entire NFL.

Thomas broke one for a huge gain against the Oakland Raiders in Week 15, when he took a punt 81-yards for a score. He showed off his great agility and speed on the play, making a decisive cut, and taking it to the house.

In a more limited role, he also had 14 kick returns for 428 total yards, including a 78-yard return Week 9 against the New York Jets. If nothing else, Thomas has shown the ability to be a great option for the Chiefs in the return game. However, it has been much tougher to find a role for Thomas in the Chiefs’ offense.

Thomas has incredible quickness and pure speed that makes him a potentially dynamic offensive player. His lack of size (5-foot-9, 179 pounds) likely holds him back from ever being a full-time offensive player, but his skill-set can be extremely dangerous in short doses.

His stat-line from last season proves this as Thomas carried the ball only 14 times, but it was for 114 yards and a touchdown. That is an impressive 8.1 yards per carry average. Without a doubt a very small sample size, but impressive nonetheless. Thomas also made a minor impact as a receiver, bringing in 23 receptions for 156 yards on the season.

The Chiefs currently list Thomas as a running back, but it is not like he plays the position in a traditional role. The Chiefs did line Thomas up in the backfield at times last season, but they were not giving him the ball like a true workhorse running back. Thomas’ carries mostly came on jet-sweeps and counter plays that allowed him to use his skills in open space to make defenders miss.

While he is listed as a running back, Thomas did line up as a receiver at times as well. Both out of the backfield and as a slot receiver, the Chiefs showcased Thomas with creative screen plays as the season went on. In fact, out of his 23 receptions, 18 of them were caught behind the line of scrimmage for a total of 120 yards according to Pro Football Focus.

Going forward, I would like to see the Chiefs get Thomas more involved with the offense. He clearly has a special skill-set that will allow for some explosive plays if given enough opportunity. The jet sweeps are potentially dangerous plays, and there are many fakes that they could use to make Thomas a decoy as well. Using Thomas in the screen game is a great tool by the Chiefs that they should continue using, but I would like to see them allow him to move downfield in the passing game as well.

On top of the scripted “gimmick” plays for Thomas, I see no reason why he could not make an impact in the normal offense. His speed and quickness would suggest that he could make plays on a consistent basis as a slot receiver. I am not saying to send Thomas out there each and every play, but increasing his snap count by getting on the field in the slot could be a huge boost to the offense as a whole.

It is not like anybody in the Chiefs’ receiving core is blocking him from playing time. Aside from Jeremy Maclin, the Chiefs have some nice upside at the position, but almost no proven talent. Giving Thomas a chance to compete as a slot receiver seems like a no-brainer. His natural skills could allow for him to get open on crossing routes and quick outs, and once the ball is in his hands, anything can happen.

Based on upside alone, Thomas should get a minor opportunity to shine for the Chiefs next season. Getting this guy the ball in space in the key, and the Chiefs should do anything possible to make it happen. Simply put, Thomas is a play-maker who can change the game at any time.

Next: Chiefs Must Find Snaps for Dee Ford

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