The athletic ability of Justin Thomas has never been in question. He’s fast, elusive and versatile, all qualities that were on display at the Georgia Tech pro day Friday.
But the question remains: Does he have a place in the NFL?
A couple dozen professional coaches and scouts were on hand to watch Thomas and eight of his Georgia Tech brethren go through the paces. They ran. They jumped. They shuttled. They lifted weights. When it was all over, Thomas probably improved his odds to earn an invitation to an NFL training camp. It just seems that no one is sure that position it should be.
“He’s going to test really well,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “He’s a great athlete. He’s going to run good times; he’s got good quickness. So we’ve got a lot of people here looking at him at a lot of different positions.”
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Since Thomas may be too small (5-foot-11, 185) by NFL standards to play quarterback, he is primarily being eyed as a potential slot receiver or even a cornerback.
“I think he can play a lot of places,” Johnson said. “I personally think he could play quarterback if given the opportunity. I know he’s not the prototype size-wise, but he’s got a strong arm; he really understands the game. If not there, then I think probably an inside receiver, but could he be a corner? Possibly, he’s a good enough athlete.”
Thomas said he felt good in all the drills.
“I was just trying to do whatever they asked me to do,” he said.
They asked to run fast and he did it. Thomas opened quite a few eyes — and more than a few notepads — when he ran a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash. He caught passes, including an acrobatic reception in the end zone that caused onlookers to applaud.
“I didn’t think I’d catch up to it,” he said. “I just put my head down and ended up finding the ball. Great way to end it.”
Thomas would prefer to get a chance at quarterback; he started three years at the position at Georgia Tech. But he understands his options may be limited there. That’s why the interest in testing Thomas in a pass-catching role.
“If I can get the ball in my hands as much as possible … that’s what I do,” he said. “That’s how I got to this point. It’ll be a fun process. It’s something that most people don’t get an opportunity to do and I’m just going to enjoy it as much as possible.”
Eight other Georgia Tech players were at pro day, held inside the John and Mary Brock Indoor Football Facility: center Freddie Burden, linebacker P.J. Davis, defensive linemen Pat Gamble and Francis Kallon, place-kicker Harrison Butker, punter Ryan Rodwell, offensive lineman Emmanuel Dieke and linebacker Tyler Marcordes.
“You get nervous for them because you know from the time they were growing up, this is one of their goals and aspirations,” Johnson said. “You just hope they come out and perform up to capabilities and do as well as they can. I tell guys all the time, ‘The pro day is OK, it’s important, but it’s what you lay on the film that matters.’ They’ve got a body of work people can look at and that will carry forward and give them an opportunity.”