New England Patriots

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 01: Tyquan Thornton #9 of the Baylor Bears celebrates a touchdown reception against the Mississippi Rebels during the fourth quarter in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome on January 01, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

  • The Patriots started Day 2 of the NFL Draft by taking one of the best pure athletes in this class in Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton. Thornton ran a 4.28 second 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine, which is a top-15 time in the history of the event.

    Of course though, there’s more to playing the wide receiver position than just speed. What’s the full makeup of Thornton’s game? Here’s what the experts have to say about him.

  • Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

    “There is a lot to like about Thornton’s game, including his instincts, long speed and ability to create separation on the move. He’s a vertical threat with the speed and poise to win deep and has an excellent feel for maintaining spacing when working against zone coverage. He’s skinny and linear, which is a bad combination in defeating strong press-man corners on the next level. The poise and catch radius will work in his favor, but the success rate on contested catches will be lower than teams like, based upon his history and physical traits. Wideouts with his size profile have struggled mightily to succeed in the league, but Thornton’s speed and talent make him worthy of a shot on Day 3.”

    (Source)

  • Tony Pauline, Pro Football Network

    Positives: Tall, speedy receiver who flashes big-play ability. Plays with excellent balance and body control and uses the sidelines well. Works to make himself an available target, follows the quarterback across the field, and uses his frame to shield away defenders. Fights with his hands to separate from defenders, tracks the ball in the air, and makes the tough catch with defenders draped on him. Gets vertical to high-point the ball over opponents. Extends to grab the ball away from his frame and possesses soft, strong hands. Gives effort blocking downfield and gets results.

    Negatives: A bit of a loper who struggles to quickly get in and out of breaks. Average-to-poor route runner. Possesses a thin frame and will struggle in contested situations at the next level.

    Analysis: Thornton watched his game take off last season and is coming off a career year where he dominated Baylor’s aerial attack. He possesses the athleticism and upside to develop into a No. 2 receiver. Nonetheless, Thornton will need time to complete his game.

    (Source)

  • Keith Sanchez, The Draft Network

    Top skills: Separation, Ball Skills, Big Play Ability

    “Tyquan Thornton is a former 3-star recruit for the state of Florida. Thornton chose the Baylor Bears over other in-state schools such as Miami, Florida, and FIU. Thornton is a senior that struggled to see significant playing time until this year (2021). The 2021 season saw Thornton’s production on the field skyrocket. Thornton finished the season with 60 receptions and 10 receiving touchdowns. Thornton showcases electric speed and can seemingly run past any defender that is put in his way. Thornton uses long strides to simply glide past defenders and uncover to make himself available for the quarterback. In the NFL, I believe Thornton will have instant value as a deep threat, and defenses will always have to account for where he is aligned because he is a big play waiting to happen.”

    (Source)

  • Dane Brugler, The Athletic

    STRENGTHS: Long-striding athlete with track speed that translates to the football field … confident hands-catcher away from his frame (only three drops on 98 targets in 2021) … finishes catches through contact surprisingly well on tape (made major improvements in this area from previous years) … has the leaping skills and length to expand catch radius and make grabs over defenders … linear route runner with controlled footwork, which helps him create stride-length separation … has toe-tapping skills along the boundary … tougher than expected as a blocker … one of only three Big 12 players with double-digit touchdown grabs in 2021 … finished his career top-10 in school history in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

    WEAKNESSES: Rail thin with minimal bulk and the skinniest wrists in the draft (6 1/8 inches) … tiny hands (8 1/4 inches) won’t create much confidence when it comes to winning 50-50 balls in the NFL … not much of a catch-and-go threat, and needs to do a better job putting himself in position for YAC opportunities … won’t break tackles and offers very little power as a ball carrier … lack of play strength will be more evident vs. physical press corners … routes are straightforward and lack deception … doesn’t offer much value on special teams … slender frame creates durability concerns.

    SUMMARY: A three-year starter at Baylor, Thornton was the X receiver in offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes’ balanced scheme. After a listless junior year, he had the senior season he needed to be taken seriously as an NFL prospect, leading the team in receiving and finishing top-10 in school history in most receiving categories. Thornton has legit vertical speed (he had a full-ride scholarship to run track at LSU out of high school) to get overtop coverage and win down the field (seven receptions of 40-plus yards in 2021). He made key improvements as a senior in terms of finishing grabs through contact, but he can be taken out of commission early when press corners connect (smallest hands and skinniest wrists in the draft). Overall, Thornton will have a tougher time masking his lack of build or play strength vs. NFL competition, but his speed plays at any level, and his midair adjustment skills could be what keep him on an NFL roster.

    (Source)

  • Tyler Sullivan, CBS Sports

    Strengths: Somewhat spindly legitimate downfield burner with adequate releases because of his quickness. His second gear is fast; his top gear is outstanding. Long-striding glider. Very natural. Was held back by QB play in his final season at Baylor. Love his natural hands. Plucks the ball away from his frame. Will track it beautifully over his shoulder. The deep speed is real and natural hands are very enticing as a sizable downfield option.

    Weaknesses: Not a YAC or contested-catch type. More physical cornerbacks will get into his frame and impede him at the outset of his route, but he isn’t incredibly skinny.

    (Source)

  • Nate Tice, Bleacher Report

    Thornton is a tall, skinny burner at the receiver position whose play speed matches his timed speed. He is a twitchy athlete who flashes good body control as a route-runner and the ability to tempo his excellent long speed. Thornton’s length also shows up in the red zone and on throws away from his body. He has a wide catching range and can adjust for tougher throws.

    Despite his wide catching range, Thornton has small hands and has issues with bringing down throws in a crowd or through contact. He doesn’t completely trust his hands; drops and double catches crop up. He will also still have to continue to work on his route refinement, as his long body type can give away route-break tendencies that better defenders in the NFL will take advantage of.

    Overall, Thornton will be able to contribute early in his career as a deep threat who can take the top off defenses with his legit track speed. He is an adequate route-runner but will need more polish to be more useful on a down-to-down basis. Thornton is also a willing blocker for teammates and does not shy away from being physical despite his skinny frame, which might indicate some special teams potential as a gunner. His lack of consistent hands through contact will make or break his upside for a more prominent role. But teams will find immediate use for his ability in the red zone and of course his speed to open things up underneath for other options, with traits for outside starter potential down the road with continued development.”

    (Source)