Southern Cal CB Kevin Thomas Confident He Can Contribute Quickly
INDIANAPOLIS – Kevin Thomas said he's ready.
And when the cornerback from the University of Southern California said as much late Friday night, he said he didn't mean he was sort of ready to contribute, or just to play a small role defensively next season for the Colts.
He said he's ready to play now. And in whatever role the Colts need him to play.
"I'm a cover corner," Thomas said Friday shortly after the Colts made him the No. 94 overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, the No. 31 selection in the third round.
"I'm ready to play."
Thomas' selection late in Round 3 meant that in the first two days of the draft the Colts have selected three defensive players. They selected Texas Christian defensive end/pass rusher Jerry Hughes with the No. 31 overall selection at the end of the first round Thursday, then selected Iowa linebacker Pat Angerer at No. 63 overall at the end of Round 2 Friday.
Colts President Bill Polian said Wednesday he expected to add depth defensively in the draft.
"We always have a bias toward defensive players high in the draft, because athleticism is so imant to us," Polian said Friday. "In the early rounds, what you find is athleticism. That's where those guys go.
"We (he and Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell) were talking, 'If you like a defensive player, you better get him in the early rounds, because they're not going to last.' In that sense, there's a bit of a bias, but we would have taken plenty of offensive players who went off before we picked had they been available. They just weren't."
Polian also said the Colts tried at times Friday to trade up but were unsuccessful.
"Despite all the movement you saw by certain teams, we had no real opportunities to move up," Polian said. "We tried on a couple of occasions, but couldn't get any traction. Obviously, these were players we're happy to have and wanted on our football team. No question about that.
"But I wouldn't say we started out specifically saying, 'We want defense.' It tends to fall that way. If you're at the back part of the early rounds, the odds are pretty good defensive players are what's going to be there."
Polian said all three players – Hughes, Angerer and Thomas – can play an extensive role on special teams.
Thomas, who played nickel at Southern Cal as a junior before starting this past season, will join a cornerback group that includes starters Jerraud Powers (second season, Auburn) and Kelvin Hayden (sixth season, Illinois), as well as nickel back and second-year veteran Jacob Lacey.
"I think you have to have five who can play," Polian said. "One of them is usually developmental. In this case, we feel like we have four who can play, so you're in pretty good shape."
Polian compared Thomas to Lacey.
"He's a really good cover corner," Polian said. "He has good, long arms. He's a really good pass defender. He's a good cover guy and obviously in that conference he has to cover a lot of good receivers. He's done a good job. It was another need we felt we had to fill in terms of depth on the defensive side of the ball, and we felt good about doing it."
Thomas, who started 17 games at Southern California, finished his career with three interceptions and 21 passes defensed. He also forced two fumbles and was named second-team All-Pac 10 Conference as a senior.
"He certainly does have a very good pass defense skill set where he can play a lot of man to man, which is something we played a little bit more of than we had in the past," Caldwell said. "He's a guy who can walk up and pressure you and play some bump and run. He has good hands. I think he's going to be able to help us."
He said while the wait to be selected Friday was "nerve-wracking," he also said he expected the experience to provide motivation.
"I was sitting there, thinking 'Guys are passing on me,'' Thomas said. "It added fuel to the fire. All of a sudden, I got the call from the Colts. Now, I'm happy as can be. I'm already motivated. I've been motivated. They threw wood on the fire. I'm ready to go."
Thomas said he spoke to the Colts at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, but had little other contact with Indianapolis officials.
"It was out of the blue, but I was hoping to get picked soon," Thomas said. "Once I saw it was the Colts, I was immediately happy. I know the type of team and quality players they have. For me to be on the same field with them, I feel all my hard work is appreciated. I'm ready to ball with them.
"I don't know what to expect, but I'm looking forward to it."
The Colts enter the final day of the 2010 NFL Draft with five selections – one in Round 4 and 5 and three in Round 7. The seventh-round selections include two supplemental selections at the end of the round that may not be traded. The Colts traded their sixth-round selection to Philadelphia last season for the rights to select punter Pat McAfee.
"We'll see," Polian said. "Let the board talk to us. We'll see what's available. I think there are still some good players there, and there will be good players throughout. It's a little tough waiting for everything to happen, but you would like to be picking this place (No. 31) every year. That's the goal.
"We'll just keep after it and see what tomorrow brings. We always find players in these rounds, and in collegiate free agency, too. We'll keep after it."
Polian also said he's not sure there is a returner remaining in the draft who is "more dymanic" than returners currently on the team. He said if the season were to open now, wide receiver Sam Giguere would return kickoffs and Powers would return punts.
"There are some return guys down there, but none that I could turn to Coach (Caldwell) and say, 'This guy has the job,'' Polian said. "We're not focused on the return game. When you go to the Super Bowl, you're not hurting in that area. If you could get a dual return guy – one guy who can do both – it's helpful, because it takes the stress off other positions. But if you can't, you can't.
"The world's not going to end because we don't have that."