Mike Mayock has suggested during the State of the Broncos piece on the NFL Network that the Broncos should consider taking Earl Thomas with the 11th pick. This is someone that has not appeared on any mocks or in any discussions regarding who should be taken with the 11th pick and so prompted me to have a look more at him. Mayock's opinion on Thomas is well publicised, he rates him as the best safety and the 7th best player in the draft commenting that Thomas is "the most instinctive free safety in the last 7 or 8 years coming out of college".
Walter Football who rates Thomas as the 2nd best safety lists the following about Thomas:
NFL Draft Scout who rates Thomas as the 19th best player and 2nd best Corner Back says
Read & React: Recognizes what's coming quickly and has the speed to get to the spot to make a play. As a safety, he was a bit overaggressive, biting on play-action and underneath routes which leaves cornerbacks on an island.
Man Coverage: Needs technique work before making the move to cornerback. Backpedal is high and slow, and lags in recovery on double moves and catching up to receivers running quick outs or square-ins. Has the speed to turn and run with receivers.
Zone Coverage: Attacks throws in front of him and has good range as a safety. Can make the interception or a big hit to separate the man from the ball. Makes quarterbacks pay for late throws over the middle, baiting them into making poor decisions. Excellent hand-eye coordination.
Closing/Recovery: Very good burst and closing speed to the ball. Wins most battles for the ball in the air. Slow to plant and drive in coverage but can close when the play is in front of him. Recovers from false steps to get back to receivers.
Run Support: Willing to support the run. Flies into the action at full speed, pounding backs in the open field. Will overpursue and fail to break down, missing tackles. Will struggle to get off receiver or lineman blocks.
Tackling: Inconsistent as a tackler in space despite good statistics. Larger receivers and tough running backs run through his tackles in space. Ends up riding big receivers for a few yards before bringing them down. A special teams force in college and will be used there in the pros.
Intangibles: Heady, hard-working player on the practice field and in the weight room. Directs secondary and knows teammates' assignments. Father Earl Thomas, Sr., is a pastor.
The main upside of his play seems to be his ball hawking capabilities. Although the Broncos improved from 6 interceptions (ranked 31st) to 17 interceptions (ranked 13th) last season, during the last 3 regular seasons I dont believe the team has returned any of their picks for a Touchdown.
So should Thomas be considered as the 11th pick? Is he the type of playmaker that could help take this defence to a new level? Is he too good a player to turn down where other DTs, ILBs, OL could be taken later on the in the draft? In an ageing secondary should the such a player be picked to learn under the experienced guys as Dawkins and Bailey?
Should McBath and Bruton be given time to prove themselves? If Thomas is considered a corner in the pros is this too high a pick for a guy in transition? Is this a waste of a high pick when there are other areas of need? Is Thomas too much of a reach at 11?
It wouldn't surprise me to see McDaniels to take someone like Thomas with the 11th pick and I would not be too upset if he did so but he would still be low on my wish list unless the Broncos began to stockpile more picks in the 1st 3 rounds of the draft to allow them to get other players in positions of real need.