The Miami Dolphins selected Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas in the second round of the 2011 draft. Since that time, the team has seen veterans Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams leave for the Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens, respectively. The team has traded for former New Orleans Saint running back Reggie Bush. The team signed undrafted free agent, former Arizona Wildcat Nic Grigsby. And, the team returns Lex Hilliard and Kory Sheets.
That means the Dolphins running backs have 548 carries, for 2,184 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The problem? If you take out Reggie Bush's stats, the Dolphins have career stats of 24 carries for 94 yards, and 1 touchdown.
"The lack of experience is definitely a concern," Head Coach Tony Sparano said. "But, I feel really good and what I've seen out of them. We have a little bit of everything back there."
So, we turn back to Thomas.
Thomas played for the K-State Wildcats for two years, coming over after Junior College, where he was a JUCO All-American, having rushed for 618 yards and 6 touchdowns, on 103 carries, and passed for 450 yards, and two more touchdowns, in 2007. Following the 2007 season, Thomas spent a year in community college so he could be academically eligible for Kansas State. His 2009 campaign with K-State saw him reach 1,265 yards on 247 carries with 11 touchdowns in 12 games. During the 2010 season, Thomas carried the ball 298 times, finishing with 19 touchdowns and 1,585 yards.
Although he lacks the top end speed of some of the bigger names in the NFL, Thomas is expected to be one of the leading rookie contributors around the NFL. As a big back (6'0", 230 lbs. compared to Reggie Bush's 6'0", 203 lbs.), Thomas brings power to the position, demonstrating an ability to break arm tackles, push the pile, and take the ball up the middle.
Thomas historically does have a weakness in the passing game, however, although coach Sparano has said that he was surprised at how many balls in practice Thomas has caught.
While Thomas will most likely be splitting the running back responsibilities with Bush, expect to see Thomas get the majority of the carries by season's end. With his size, and the coaching staff's penchant for power football, Thomas is exactly what this team wants and needs. Thomas will add the bruising, up the gut runs to an offense looking to get more explosive. Those runs should free up the passing game as teams have to respect Thomas.
Could Thomas have just the twelfth 1,000 yard rushing season in Dolphins history?