A select few prospects perform so well at the NFL Combine that they invigorate their stock with that one event alone. In truth, Baylor WR Tyquan Thornton was a quality player with an underrated 2022 NFL Draft scouting report, even before his Combine performance. But Thornton’s showing in Indianapolis reaffirmed what we knew, on a national stage — Thornton has legitimate talent. With that talent, how does he project in the NFL?
Tyquan Thornton NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: Baylor
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’2 3/8″
- Weight: 181 pounds
- Wingspan: 33 1/4″
- Length: 79 1/4″
- Hand: 8 1/4″
Tyquan Thornton Scouting Report
There’s just something about those Baylor guys. Cornerback Kalon Barnes led the entire NFL Combine with a 4.23 40-yard dash. JT Woods ran a strong 4.36. And Thornton, the team’s chief playmaking threat at receiver, came in with a stellar time of 4.28, at over 6’2″, with arms over 33 inches long.
Speed is a defining part of Thornton’s game, but even for some who watched him, it was surprising to see him run in the 4.2 range. It’s rare for receivers of Thornton’s size to run at that speed. But as it turns out, Thornton is a rare player. There are some limitations with the Baylor WR, but there’s also a lot of upside — which naturally drums up excitement.
Thornton’s athletic profile
Very quickly, Thornton’s combination of size and athleticism becomes enticing. Not only did Thornton run a 4.28 at the NFL Combine, but he also tested with a 36.5-inch vertical and a 130-inch broad jump — both stellar explosiveness numbers. It comes as no surprise that all of Thornton’s physical traits are paramount in his game.
At 6’2 3/8″, Thornton is a long-strider with blazing speed in space. He accelerates incredibly quickly and covers lots of ground down the field. With an explosive first step out of his stance, he gets upfield and pressures DBs vertically. His long strides open up his explosiveness, and with that burst, he quickly gets a step on his defenders. Thornton’s speed also shows up after the catch. He can take passes in the short range and explode through seams with his fast, efficient strides.
Beyond his elite linear explosiveness and speed, Thornton is also a twitchy mover who can get defensive backs to jump and over-set with sudden moves at the line. The Baylor WR is able to plant and explode off stems, creating quick separation with his short-area burst. That twitch also enables him to sidestep single defenders after the catch.
Thornton’s size also plays a hand in his success. His length affords him a wide catch radius, and he reaches beyond smaller defenders.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Thornton’s speed is most definitely one of his top traits, but he’s a good player beyond that. With his twitch, Thornton has a solid release arsenal. He can use a roll step to get displacement and peel by DBs. He also has a brutal jab step, which he uses to explode upfield and instantly create space. Moreover, Thornton can use hand swipes to prevent DBs from jamming, and he also uses physicality at the stem to compound separation.
Thornton has quick, efficient footwork on slants, and flashes good hip sink for his size. He also has the awareness to sit in open zones in the short and intermediate ranges. Going further, Thornton has great concentration and focus at the catch point, and he can look the ball in through congestion. The Baylor WR is able to guide and pluck the ball with his hands and haul in passes amidst contact.
Expanding on Thornton’s ability at the catch point, the Baylor WR can track the ball downfield and adjust for throws with smooth body control. He also has a great sense of timing at the catch point, and he uses his long arms to snare passes with authority. After the catch, he also has decent contact balance.
Thornton is a great receiver, but he’s just as strong as a blocker. He’s physical in that phase, surging into contact and giving maximum effort. He has combative hands but also knows when to extend and drive players back. Thornton can stack blocks and uses good angle awareness and leverage in space.
Areas for improvement
Most notably, Thornton isn’t yet an elite independent creator or separator, even if his speed allows for easy scheming. The Baylor WR flashes good hip sink, but he has a tendency to be upright in and out of breaks. He could sink his hips more consistently. Moreover, Thornton could be more sudden and abrupt when cutting his stems. He sometimes simply rotates around and doesn’t always chop his feet on in-breaking routes.
Going further, Thornton has some wasted motion on releases, and he sometimes eats up too much cushion trying to be too creative. Additionally, he can be more precise when using deception as a route runner. He flashes the ability to use head fakes, but he isn’t always sharp or refined. Overall, Thornton’s route tree is not expansive. It features lots of go-routes, slants, and some drags. There’s room to develop there.
Moving onward, Thornton can be a little stiff when contorting in the air for passes. He can also be a bit leggy when changing directions, and he lacks elite stop-and-start and change-of-direction ability. Thornton’s frame is a bit lighter, and he may need to add weight at the NFL level. Furthermore, while he has good coordination with his hands, they can be a bit stronger. There are instances where he drops the ball working through contact.
Thornton’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
Standing at just 181 pounds, despite being almost 6’3″, Thornton may not pass the weight threshold for some teams. But even if his frame is light, he plays beyond it — both as a pass catcher and as a blocker. Thornton has legitimate field-flipping speed and explosiveness, and he can easily stack defensive backs and generate big plays. But beyond that, he’s shown to track the ball, use his hands, and work through contact.
In addition to his weight, there may also be concerns about Thornton’s route running and how it translates to the NFL. I’m of the mind that he has the traits to improve there. For his size, Thornton flashes solid hip sink and has a functional release package. He’s also a surprisingly twitchy receiver for his size, and he uses that lateral suddenness to gain displacement and free up his explosive energy.
Early on, Thornton may need to adjust a bit with his slender frame and route running. But he already has a skill set that’s conducive to production, both as a run-after-catch threat in the short range and as a deep threat downfield. Thornton’s linear speed and explosiveness are rare traits for his size, and he has the length to win in 1-on-1 situations. His blocking ability is the cherry on top.
Once viewed as a Day 3 prospect at best, Thornton’s speed has him firmly in the Day 2 conversation. For the team that knows how to use him, he can be a dynamic playmaker.
Thornton’s Player Profile
There’s no replacement for speed, and Thornton had it from an early age. Not only did that speed help him become a standout wide receiver for Booker T. Washington High School, but it also helped him as a track athlete. Thornton ran a 10.5 in the 100m dash in high school and also earned a 21.07 in the 200m dash.
Thornton was a star in both sports, but football was where his future would end up being. He was rated a three-star recruit in the 2018 class by ESPN’s board and earned several offers from FBS schools. Among those schools were Florida, Georgia, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Baylor. Thornton chose the Bears and traveled to Waco to continue his football journey.
Thornton’s career at Baylor
Thornton saw the field right away as a true freshman. During that season, he amassed 20 catches for 354 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also logged limited experience as a kick returner. In 2019, as a true sophomore, Thornton had his first breakout. In an All-Big 12 honorable mention campaign, the Baylor WR put up 45 catches for 782 yards and 5 touchdowns. He was the team’s second-leading receiver behind Denzel Mims.
A truncated 2020 season stalled Thornton’s ascent a bit, but the Baylor WR picked up where he left off in 2021. Saving his best for last, Thornton recorded 948 yards and 10 touchdowns on 62 catches in his final season. He helped elevate his Bears over Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Game and earned an invite to the East-West Shrine Game.
Thornton’s NFL Draft ascension
After putting up the numbers he did at the NFL Combine, it’s likely that Thornton gets top-100 consideration. Without being an elite independent separator, some of his NFL production may be reliant on scheme. But he does have enough in his release package — and more than enough explosiveness — to be a vertical threat on the boundary with run-after-catch utility. Thornton can also line up in the slot, where his size and speed could be dangerous.
If Thornton can use his twitch to expand his route-running arsenal, he can be a legitimate starting talent. But even in his current form, he offers the dynamic ability to be a spark plug for an NFL offense. Speed, size, and wingspan alone make Thornton a danger downfield, and his blocking ability will only further sell coaches on his value.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Tyquan Thornton
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.