LSU WR Brian Thomas Is a Cheat Code as a Downfield Receiver

Oct 21, 2023; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. (11) smiles during the first half against the Army Black Knights at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

LSU has turned into one of the top producers of NFL talent at the wide receiver position recently.

Of course, the Vikings got an absolute steal by landing Justin Jefferson with the 22nd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and other names like Odell Beckham Jr., Ja’Marr Chase, and Jarvis Landry have carved out key NFL roles for themselves over the years. Brian Thomas is hoping to become another LSU product to turn into a star at the NFL level, and today’s edition of the Vikings Draft Thermometer series will discuss his skillset going into the 2024 NFL Draft.


Brian Thomas
Nov 25, 2023; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. (11) catches a touchdown against Texas A&M Aggies defensive back Sam McCall (16) during the second half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 209 pounds
  • Arm Length: 32 3/4″
  • Hand Size: 9 3/4″
  • Wingspan: 79 5/8″
  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.33 seconds
  • 10-Yard Split: 1.5 seconds
  • Vertical Jump: 38.5″
  • Broad Jump: 10′ 6″
  • School: LSU
  • Games Watched: Texas A&M (2023), Missouri (2023), Alabama (2023), Florida State (2023)

Brian Thomas came out of Walker High School in Walker, Louisiana, as a highly-touted recruit, earning a four-star rating from 247 Sports. He was ranked as the ninth-best wide receiver in the Class of 2021 and the 69th overall recruit. Despite receiving offers from plenty of SEC schools such as Alabama, Auburn, Florida, and Georgia, Thomas opted to stay close to home by committing to LSU.

Thomas immediately became a contributor, catching the sixth-most passes and fifth-most receiving yards on the team during his freshman season of 2021. While his teammate Malik Nabers took a major step forward during the following season, Thomas was more of a depth receiver once again in 2022 behind Kayshon Boutte.

2023 proved to be the year where the receiver could finally break out in the LSU offense, though. Thomas ranked fourth in the SEC for both receptions and receiving yards while leading the entire country in touchdown receptions.

Both Nabers and Thomas are now headed to the NFL Draft this spring, hoping to become first-round selections.


Brian Thomas Jr (11) pick six and scores a touchdown as the LSU Tigers take on the the Army Black Knights in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, October. 21, 2023. Mandatory Credit: Scott Clause/USA Today Network.
  • 2021: 28 receptions, 359 yards, 12.8 yards per reception, 2 TDs (12 games)
  • 2022: 31 receptions, 361 yards, 11.6 yards per reception, 5 TDs (13 games)
  • 2023: 68 receptions, 1177 yards, 17.3 yards per reception, 17 TDs (13 games)


Oct 21, 2023; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. (11) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Army Black Knights defensive back Cameron Jones (10) during the first quarter at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas is a very versatile receiving presence because of his combination of size and speed. Despite measuring in at 6’3″ and 209 pounds, the receiver tied for the third-fastest 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

As a result, Thomas is not only a red zone threat because of his size and ability to outleap cornerbacks on jump balls, but he is an elite deep receiver as well. On passes of 20+ yards, Thomas tied for the third-most receptions (15), had the second-most receiving yards (670), and the most TD receptions (12) in the entire FBS.

Thomas can line up all over on the line of scrimmage, and his elite acceleration gives him the edge on just about any defensive back as he works downfield, and his ability to break tackles allows him to pick up additional yards after the catch. He also can utilize his size to be a stellar blocker in the running game as well as creating space for other receivers to make plays post-catch.


Sep 30, 2023; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. (11) runs after a catch during the first half against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

While Thomas thrives on straight-line routes such as verticals and curls, he needs to become more nuanced as a route runner. Despite his size, he struggles against press coverage at times and doesn’t utilize his strength to win in the shorter areas of the field. He will need to expand his route tree to find ways to consistently contribute at the NFL level.

There are a few instances on his tape as well where focus drops pop up, particularly in the shorter areas of the field where he has to focus more on intricate route running to beat defenders.

NFL Projection

Jan 4, 2022; Houston, TX, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. (11) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Kansas State Wildcats during the 2022 Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
  • Draft Stock: Top 20-Second Round
  • Immediate Role: WR2
  • NFL Comp: Christian Watson
  • Vikings Draft Thermometer (1-100): 35

Thomas’ strengths as a deep receiver can give him an immediate role at the NFL level. However, he needs to go to a team with an established WR1 with a more nuanced route tree to take pressure off of him in the shorter areas of the field. He can win with size and speed downfield, but unless he is utilized on screens to make plays after the catch, there is little to suggest that he can come into the NFL and immediately dominate at all three levels of the field.

Editor’s Note: Statistics for this article were found via 247 SportsPro Football Focusand Sports Reference CFB.