As one NFL season ends, the next is set to begin with the 2022 NFL Draft on the horizon. In our latest installment of scouting reports to help guide your fantasy football teams, we look at Baylor WR Tyquan Thornton. What are Thornton’s strengths and weaknesses, which teams could be potential landing spots for him in the NFL Draft, and what is his fantasy outlook?
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Tyquan Thornton NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: Baylor
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6′ 2″
- Weight: 177
- Wingspan: 79 1/8″
- Arm: 33 1/8″
- Hand: 7 7/8″
Tyquan Thornton’s fantasy football scouting report
The Baylor senior had a year to remember in 2021, and he even landed on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. Thornton saved his best season for last, leading the Bears in receiving with 62 catches for 948 yards and 10 touchdowns. He commanded a healthy 26.2% of the targets while averaging 15.3 yards per reception and 2.6 yards per team passing attempt. Both are a reflection of his efficiency when targeted.
Thornton’s most significant jump from one season to the next came from his freshman to sophomore year. It gave us a glimpse at the kind of player he is. Originally from Florida, Thornton came to Baylor at a very slim 149 pounds. While he recorded 354 yards and 3 TDs on 20 receptions as a freshman, he was far too small, and he knew it.
Thornton was a totally different player in 2019 in what became his first breakout campaign. He more than doubled his totals, hauling in 45 receptions for 782 yards while playing alongside Denzel Mims.
Thornton is a legitimate vertical threat
Thornton is a big-play receiver, much like Mims was in college, just a bit smaller. Playing on the outside, Thornton does a solid job at creating separation at both the release and at the point of the catch. He does this using his arms to create leverage. Yet that physicality is not the only trait he brings.
Thornton has quick feet for a guy coming in at 6’2″, and he knows it. At the Shrine Bowl, Thornton had some defenders in a spin cycle. One of his best reps of the week came against Georgia Southern DB Darrell Baker Jr. He gave him a hesitation on the release, planted his inside foot, and got half a body of width within two steps.
He then fought the hand off of his shoulder and, at that point, was even with the DB. Mid-route, Thornton added a hesitation and made the defender alter his speed. Then, he accelerated, pumped the breaks without using his arms as flaps to decelerate, hit the hitch route, and completed the catch. It checked every single box you want in a perimeter receiver.
Speed isn’t everything, but he has that too
Thornton also has legitimate speed. He reportedly ran an unofficial 4.38 40-yard dash, but the NFL Combine will confirm everything. Just know he is fast enough. Personally, the 40 is overrated in my book anyway. Give me in-game speed. Thornton is a long strider and has one of the better double-moves you’ll see.
Thornton has good ball skills, whether aligning in the slot or on the perimeter. He tracks the ball well in the air and can alter his speed to catch it in stride and accelerate. He was at his best on the boundary, which is where I expect to see him in the NFL.
While he’s not likely to break many tackles, Thornton uses speed to break angles, which can be just as effective and is needed for someone with his frame.
There is room for improvement in Thornton’s game
While Thornton’s release is good, he doesn’t offer a ton of variation. In off coverage, it’s a quick step and then speed. He would either use a rocker step or a back step to create the separation or gain the leverage against press. It was effective, but Thornton will need a few more tricks in the NFL.
Thornton also runs and breaks like a guy at 6’2″. At times, he struggles with waist bend or sinking his hips. With that said, on inward breaking routes or especially a comeback, curl, or hitch, he effectively “sits in the chair” and gets his head around.
Hand size is also a question, as it’s all the rage when measurements roll around. At 7 7/8″, Thornton is definitely on the smaller side of things. The NFL could knock him for this.
While he didn’t swallow the ball up with oven mitts, I didn’t see many examples of his smaller hands being an issue. However, not everyone can be Treylon Burks and need custom-made 5XL receiving gloves.
Thornton’s role at the next level
Thornton should be projected as a vertical boundary threat in the NFL. Given his stride length and speed, as the saying goes, “if he’s even, he’s leavin’.” He does a good job of jumping vertically at the catch point, maximizing his reach and size. That will help in the NFL on jump balls or red-zone goal-to-go looks.
Thornton might never be a consistent receiver — most deep threats typically aren’t unless they are suburb route runners like Justin Jefferson — but there is a role for him. It might not come in 2022, he should see the field and become a more constant staple of an offense in years to come.
Potential landing spots for Thornton
With the NFL Draft closing in, which teams make the most sense for Thornton as projected landing spots? Based on Thornton’s scouting report, fantasy managers should keep their eye on these franchises come draft day.
Pick any position, and the Falcons likely need help. That’s especially true at receiver, as no one knows the future of Calvin Ridley. When on the field, he is one of the best in the game. However, there is speculation he wants out. Behind him, Russell Gage has operated as the No. 1. The problem is Gage is set to become a free agent, as are Tajae Sharpe, Christian Blake, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Cordarrelle Patterson.
That’s five of the top seven players in yards who could potentially leave. Aside from TE Kyle Pitts (1,026 yards), the next closest is RB Mike Davis with 259 yards. The Falcons are unlikely to be a good team, but adding Thornton in Round 4 potentially gives them a deep element to their offense. Combined with Pitts, it’s a solid start with a young core of players.
I love Amon-Ra St. Brown. I’ve been on record as a fan of his for years. Last season, he proved all of us believers right, recording six straight games of 10+ targets with 51 receptions, 560 yards, and 5 touchdowns. However, St. Brown is not a vertical threat. That’s not his game.
If you look at their current projected roster, the Lions don’t really have a player to fill that role. Josh Reynolds was the closest thing, but he is a free agent, as are Kalif Raymond and KhaDarel Hodge.
PFN NFL Analyst Dalton Miller suggested Jakobi Meyers in free agency, which makes a ton of sense. Yet, once again, he isn’t a vertical guy. If the Lions bring in Thornton, it makes for a rather well-rounded passing game that many might underestimate.
D’Andre Swift is one of the top pass-catching RBs in the NFL, while T.J. Hockenson is one of the best tight ends to enter the NFL in the last four seasons. Adding Meyers and Thornton would give Jared Goff a higher-level target at every level of the offense. Thornton would help speed up the rebuild and could grow along with the rest of this young but talented team.
DeVonta Smith was always going to hit. The former Heisman Trophy winner is too special. His struggles from a numbers standpoint were more to do with the offense. Say what you want about Jalen Hurts, but I still believe, if given the weapons, he is a starting-caliber QB in the NFL. The problem is the weapons.
Aside from Smith and TE Dallas Goedert, the Eagles have swung and missed more than Chris Davis when he went 0-for-54 after signing his mega-deal with the Orioles that spanned 210 days. Jalen Reagor is nothing that I thought he could have been. He is simply inconsistent in all aspects. He’s got the receiver version of the yips.
The only receiver set to leave in free agency is Greg Ward, but the talent remaining needs a boost. Quez Watkins is a serviceable WR, but he is a slot option, playing inside on over 70% of his snaps.
At the Z, Thornton could be the explosive, over-the-top threat Philly’s offense desperately needs. He would have little to no competition for those reps. If the franchise wants to give Hurts an adequate chance to succeed and evaluate him, it needs to surround him with pass catchers. Thornton could be part of that effort.