Somebody needs to sign Pierre Thomas
With the importance of the passing game in the NFL, having a running back who can play comfortably as a receiver has become increasingly important. That’s why it comes as something of a mystery that the highest-rated running back based on his pass-catching ability in our system is currently a free agent.
We’re talking about Pierre Thomas, who has been one of the most well-rounded backs in the NFL since arriving as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois in 2007 (he was cut by the Saints this offseason for salary-cap reasons). He finished with a positive overall grade in every season with the Saints and has only graded negatively as a receiver or rusher just once — in the 2010 season when injury limited him to just 221 snaps.
Thomas also regularly graded among the five best receiving backs and ranked among the most elusive backs in the league (as measured by our elusive rating and yards after contact per attempt). Few players display such a consistently low pad level and ability to fall forward when being tackled.
Thomas isn’t likely an every-down running back at this point in his career, having recently turned 30 and having dealt with injury issues previously, but he can still perform, as evidenced by his 2014 season. After catching 90 percent of his targets, he gained 9.7 yards after the catch per reception and forced 20 missed tackles.
With injuries piling up on running back depth charts across the league, Thomas should be viewed as the best available option. He has the ability to help almost any team.