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Should NY Jets trade back and take Brian Thomas Jr.?

Brian Thomas Jr.
Brian Thomas Jr., Getty Images

Brian Thomas Jr. is an intriguing trade-back option

Ranked 18th overall on the consensus big board, the unofficial “son” of a former New York Jets defender remains an intriguing option.

Officially speaking, LSU wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. is unrelated to former Jets EDGE defender Bryan Thomas. Nonetheless, that fact does not take away the idea that the name triggers fond thoughts surrounding the Rex Ryan-led AFC title teams of 2009 and 2010.

The much younger Thomas could absolutely represent a possible target for the Jets if they trade back from the 10th overall pick.

Is trading back and taking Thomas Jr. an appealing outcome for the Jets?

Brian Thomas Jr. profile

Combine:

  • 6′ 2⅞” (77th percentile among WR)
  • 209 pounds (67th)
  • 79⅝” wingspan (89th)
  • 4.33 40-yard dash (94th)
  • 38.5-inch vertical jump (82nd)
  • 126-inch broad jump (79th)
  • 11 bench press reps (19th)

2023 season:

  • Led the FBS with 17 receiving TDs.
  • Played in all 13 games and finished with 68 catches on 87 targets for 1,177 yards.
  • Tied Rome Odunze for the FBS lead with 12 deep TDs. Second behind Odunze with 670 deep receiving yards.

Brian Thomas Jr. is an interesting prospect for the Jets at pick No. 10, but he is more likely to be targeted in a trade-back situation. 

Thomas was overshadowed by Malik Nabers at LSU last year, which made it tougher for him to generate hype going into the 2024 draft. With that being said, he still put up great numbers in the offense, leading the FBS in receiving touchdowns. Thomas was particularly impressive as a deep threat, with 12 of his 17 touchdowns coming over 20 yards downfield.

Thomas averaged 5.7 YAC per reception in 2023, which was a little bit below average in the FBS and disappointing for his speed. On the other hand, he averaged 2.61 yards per route run, which ranked 32nd out of 286 FBS WRs with at least 50 targets. Thomas was also 7-for-13 on contested catch opportunities, which is a small sample size but encouraging to see with his size and frame.

After watching every target of his 2023 season, let’s see what stood out on film.

Brian Thomas Jr. film

A lot of these opportunities seemed to arise on tape for Thomas Jr. He just was not that great at forcing missed tackles. For his speed and size, it was something I hoping to see more of. He consistently was tackled on the first attempt.

Touchdown on a slot fade here. Facing press coverage, Thomas uses a good rocker step to get the CB off balance and then uses his 4.3 speed to get by him easily. Great ball tracking too to come back to the ball.

Another slot fade versus press coverage, this time in the RZ. Even though he stumbles on his release, BTJ makes an unreal contested catch with the DB draped all over him. Awesome hands and ball tracking from BTJ for the TD. This is a Sunday type of catch.

Another great example of his elite ball tracking. BTJ brings his body to a full stop and finishes the catch through contact for a touchdown.  Awesome body control and awareness to get his feet in as well.

Post corner route at the top from BTJ here. The DB is giving 10 yards of separation, but BTJ shows good change-of-direction and suddenness in his break on the post corner, creating a ton of separation for the explosive play. It’s hard to know if he will be able to do this consistently at the NFL level just due to LSU not asking him to do it much.

It is hard for me to give BTJ a full evaluation, as LSU really did not make him run the full route tree.He was targeted a ton on go’s/fade balls along with shallow crossers.

I love Thomas Jr.’s contested catch ability, speed, and size. He also showed great ball-tracking ability. However, at the NFL level, I would be a bit concerned about his ability to run the full route tree and his YAC ability.BTJ only ranked 67th among FBS wide receivers with 11 missed tackles forced (less than one per game), so the stats backed the film up.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about Thomas Jr. as an overall prospect. I think he is clearly less of a prospect than the top 3 WRs that will go off the board in a few weeks, but he is not a bad prospect at all. I see him going in the 15-25 range of the first round. If the Jets trade back into that range, they could very well look to take him.

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Jets71
Jets71
1 month ago

Yes! This is the move I’m hoping for, I’m not sure they can pull it off. They would need to work their other picks to get up into round 2 because they MUST get one of the OL. If they can move back take Thomas and land a young backup “swing tackle” like Guyton, or Patrick Paul, I’d be excited.

This solves the chatter that your first round pick HAS TO PLAY, it gives them someone who can play a few games WHEN one of the OT’s get injured, and provides a potential OL starter for NEXT year.

I think Thomas with Garrett would be devastating on a defense.

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