Portland State tight end Julius Thomas is one of the fastest rising prospects in the draft. The former Viking is hoping to follow the same path as Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates as former basketball players whose unique combination of size, athleticism and soft hands make them playmaking tight ends in the NFL.
In a draft lacking great front-line talent at tight end, but strong in developmental prospects, Thomas ranks among the most intriguining. A strong effort during the all-star game circuit and an impressive showing at the Combine helped boost his stock further. Thomas was clocked at 4.64 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.31 in the short shuttle and demonstrated his explosiveness with a 37.5" vertical jump.
Thomas elected to sit on those numbers at his Pro Day Wednesday, instead focusing on positional drills for a number of teams. The Pittsburgh Steelers' tight ends coach James Daniel and Jacksonville Jaguars' tight ends coach Rob Boras were on hand to watch him run routes and catch passes.
Thomas was a standout hoops player with the Vikings, earning a repuation as one of the tougher post players in the Big Sky Conference and setting Portland State's team record for field goal percentage. He played only one season of collegiate football, after spending only one season on the gridiron in high school. Despite his inexperience, the 6-5, 246 pounder earned all-conference honors this season, catching 29 passes for 453 yards and two touchdowns.
He was one of the stars of the East-West Shrine Game practices, impressing scouts with a blend of athleticism that some compared to Jermichael Finley's. Thomas caught the West's only touchdown in the Shrine Game, itself, and caught the two-point conversion seconds later, as well.