- Games played: 17 (10 starts)
- Defensive snaps played: 718 (63.1 percent)
- Interceptions: 4
- Pass break-ups: 2
- Tackles: 52
The Big Picture
The Colts used their final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft – No. 239 overall – on an off-the-radar yet extremely athletic safety from Yale in Thomas, who recorded a 41-inch vertical leap at his pro day. The Athletic's Dane Brugler, whose annual "The Beast" is as thorough of any draft guide, ranked Thomas No. 158 out of 190 draft-eligible linebackers. Not just players – linebackers. A bunch of the guys ranked around Thomas didn't even get NFL tryouts, let alone sign as undrafted free agents.
But the Colts saw in Thomas a player with intriguing athleticism and movement skills who could project as either a safety or a corner in the NFL. The team quickly settled on giving Thomas a shot at safety – but on a depth chart with three veterans (Julian Blackmon, Rodney McLeod Jr. and Armani Watts) and a top-100 draft pick (Nick Cross), there was no guarantee he'd earn a spot on the roster coming out of training camp.
Thomas had a solid camp and secured a spot on the 53-man roster, and when Blackmon sustained an injury in the first half of the Colts' Week 3 game against the Kansas City Chiefs, he stepped in for his NFL debut against Patrick Mahomes and the most productive offense in football. Shortly after Thomas entered the game, Mahomes stepped up in the pocket and rifled a vintage throw downfield toward wide receiver Justin Watson. Thomas covered acres of space to break up the pass – and while the play didn't count due to a holding penalty on the Chiefs, it was a "whoa" moment for the rookie.
With Thomas patrolling the deep part of the field at free safety in Gus Bradley's defense, the Colts held the Chiefs to 17 points – their lowest total of the season.
Thomas went on to start 10 games and record a team-high four interceptions, the most by a rookie drafted No. 200 overall or later since 1992. While Thomas won't get the most attention of a 2022 seventh-round pick – Brock Purdy, Mr. Irrelevant, has the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship, after all – he built a remarkable foundation during his rookie season.
"He's smart, a guy coming from Yale – we joke about that," McLeod said late in the season. "You can see he's got a good knack for the ball. Making plays early on in camp, this kid is very rangy. We joke a lot about who has the most speed in the defensive back room, but you can arguably say he's one of those guys. He showcases that every week.
He's been able to come up with some huge plays these past two weeks and he's been somebody that comes to work each and every day man and tries to get better. That's what you see, you've seen him progress from training camp all the way up to this point. He's taken every coaching point and he's applied it out on the field."
View some of the best photos of safety Rodney Thomas II in his 2022 debut season with the Colts.