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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Pro/Con: Who will have a bigger impact as a rookie?

    Britton: O-lineman more likely to start right away

    Ari Wasserman

    associate sports editor

    Ask Arizona football fans who they feel made a bigger difference for the Wildcats last season, Eben Britton or Mike Thomas, and most would probably go with Thomas.

    After all, it would be hard to blame them.

    Thomas had a knack for making jaw-dropping plays on the field en route to becoming the most prolific receiver in the history of the Pacific 10 Conference. When a big play on offense or special teams was needed, Thomas was the man for the job.

    That being said, it is quite possible that offensive tackle Eben Britton could made a comparable impact, if not a bigger one, for the Wildcats last season. But making plays in the offensive trenches is hardly an attention-getter like it is in the skill positions.

    It was Britton, however, who was drafted nearly two rounds higher than Thomas by the same team (Jacksonville Jaguars) in this past weekend’s NFL Draft. The argument can hardly be made in regards to who the better player is based solely on draft position, but in this case, Britton takes the cake.

    That’s because we are analyzing the same team’s draft, and the need for a stud offensive lineman was more of a concern for the Jacksonville office than drafting a quick slot receiver.

    Wide receiver could arguably be one of the easiest transitions when leaving the college game for the NFL, especially because much of the position’s tools needed for success rely on speed.

    Meanwhile, there is no argument that the toughest adjustment in terms of being ready to play at the next level is on the offensive line, especially because the physicality is night and day between those two levels.

    While on the surface it may seem obvious that a playmaker like Thomas will transition faster into the NFL – particularly because of his prowess on special teams – the fact of the matter is Britton will probably find a place in Jacksonville quicker.

    Arguably one of the most important positions on the field is left tackle, and Britton will have the opportunity to enter the team’s starting lineup right off the bat.

    There is no question that it will take some time for Britton to contain some of the most athletic players on the field, defensive ends, but the lineman was drafted by the Jaguars higher because they have more of a need at that position.

    The bottom line is the Jaguars are counting on his adjustment faster than Thomas’, thus making his role on the team more important off the bat.

    Thomas: Play-making ability should equal playing time

    Tim Kosch

    sports writer

    Mike Thomas is an experienced, savvy wide receiver with the speed and athleticism that should give him the opportunity to make an immediate impact on the field.

    Thomas was a four-year starter for the Wildcats, and that experience alone will likely work in the eye of a traditional coach like Jack Del Rio.

    The knock on Thomas throughout his athletic career has been that he’s too short, but the mismatches he could potentially create out of the slot receiver position made him one of the more intriguing prospects in the entire draft.

    The Pacific 10 Conference’s all-time leading receiver has breathtaking speed, an explosive first step, and superior quickness in and out of his breaks that should give him the ability to easily beat linebackers or safeties in man coverage. When Thomas enters the game as a third or fourth receiver, defenses will be forced to make a difficult decision: either shade a linebacker and safety over him to make up for his superior speed, or change their personnel to add defensive backs.

    Thomas will likely compete with former Wildcat Dennis Northcutt for the slot position, but even if he doesn’t light up the box score during his rookie season, he will help the Jaguars’ passing game tremendously, demanding defensive adjustments and opening holes for newly acquired receiver Torry Holt.

    In addition to making an impact on offense, Thomas could be starting on opening day as a punt returner.

    He led the Pac-10 last season with two punt returns for touchdowns in his first year at the position.

    Thomas has battled the “”too short”” reputation his entire life, and he has passed every test with flying colors. His plummet to the fourth round can only be attributed to his height, but there are no signs that the NFL Draft “”experts”” won’t be the latest addition to the list of people Thomas has proved wrong.

    Look at DeSean Jackson last year. He had first round talent and out-of-this world athleticism, but was taken late in the second round because of his height only to go on to completely rejuvenate the Philadelphia Eagles’ passing attack.

    Thomas should be no different, especially when you consider the opinions of those closest to him. Former Wildcat and future Jaguar teammate Eben Britton and former UA teammate and current San Diego Charger Antoine Cason think Thomas will not only be a good NFL player, but a star.

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