It may seem like the New England Patriots defensive backfield is awfully crowded after the offseason additions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. However, sixth-round pick Jemea Thomas offers a diverse skillset that will help him succeed in training camp.
It’s no secret that Bill Belichick loves players who are willing to do anything to help the team win. Versatility is perhaps the best attribute of Thomas. The Georgia Tech product can play cornerback, strong safety and kick returner. Thomas embodies the “Patriot Way” as well as any defensive player that the Pats have drafted in recent memory.
The biggest knock on Thomas is his height (5-foot-9) and slim build (192 pounds). However, what Thomas lacks in size, he makes up for in hard hits and aggressive play. He is a very sure tackler, an area that Patriots secondaries of the past few seasons have struggled in mightily.
If the Patriots decide that Thomas is most effective as a slot corner, then his main competitor in camp will be veteran Kyle Arrington. Arrington is a similar size at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds and is more proven, but Thomas offers much greater upside. While Arrington has been a productive player at times during his career, he has been exposed far too often. If it came down to either Thomas or Arrington for a roster spot, the Patriots should go with the rookie.
However, in last Friday’s OTA session, Thomas was paired with Pat Chung at safety, indicating that the Pats are interested in using Thomas in that spot. Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon are the only sure bets to make the team at the safety position, so that leaves Thomas, Chung, Tavon Wilson, and Nate Ebner as the main competitors for the other spots on the depth chart.
Second-year cornerback Logan Ryan is also in the conversation for the other starting safety spot.
If all else fails, Thomas should make the team solely for his special teams value. He was a solid kick returner in college, which should really help him stand out during camp. The Patriots fielded a laughable kickoff return unit last year — LeGarrette Blount may be a talented running back, but he is a terrible return man.
One way or another, be it as a slot corner, safety, or a special teams man, Thomas will make the Patriots’ roster. As the 2014 season progresses, Thomas should carve out a true role for himself on the team and become an impact player.