Walter Thurmond III is said to have fallen into the fourth round because of injury. That's pretty hard to determine, actually. Thurmond could have been a first round selection. He could have fallen out of the draft. His injury may have made him a slightly worse prospect, but more than that, it made him a harder to evaluate prospect.
Thurmond played through a pelvis injury as a junior. He only played four games as a senior before tearing the MCL, ACL and PCL in his right knee. It's hard to know what Thurmond was and hard to know what Thurmond will return as. His knee prevented him from participating in the pre-draft process, and so not only do we lack objective measurements of his speed, strength, agility and explosiveness, but more importantly, we lack intimate, head-to-head comparison. Thurmond did not compete against other pro talent at the Senior Bowl or run drills alongside his peers at the Combine.
So much reverence is paid to game tape, we can ignore its limitations. The pre-draft process allows coaches and talent evaluators to get back their roots. Way back when, how did Thurmond earn playing time? How did he become West Covina High's top receiver and cornerback? Practice. He showed up at practice and outplayed his peers.
All the Underwear-Olympics jabs miss this vital component of the pre-draft process. It's not all weights and measures. It's an all-star practice where the best compete against the best until the best of the best separate themselves. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie didn't earn a place in the first round with game tape, he did it in practice. He did it at the Senior Bowl. He backed up that performance with another impressive showing at the Combine.
Thurmond did not get to practice. He did not record a forty time, a vertical or a three cone. He did not press Riley Cooper or jump a route targeted by Tim Tebow. He could have earned himself into the first round. Seriously. He could have fallen like Syd'Quan Thompson. Ok, probably not.
So you see, drafting Thurmond is an interesting gamble made possible and practical by John Schneider and the Seahawks FO hoarding picks. Basically, I love it. Love everything about this pick. Loved it when it happened, have always championed selecting players devalued because of routine injuries and though I'm not sure Thurmond's injury is routine, ligament replacement is common, with a predictable timetable and typical results. I love this pick. Now let me explain why.
Oregon faced Utah in the small window between Thurmond's pelvis injury and knee injury. It is a good game for scouting Thurmond because it's current, he was healthy, the game was tightly contested and Utah has a pretty good passing offense and at least one pro talent at wide receiver, David Reed. It's not perfect, but it offers a taste of Thurmond's potential.
1. 1st and 10 at UTAH 25 Terrance Cain pass complete to David Reed for 6 yards to the Utah 31.
Thurmond is playing the field side, which happens to be the offensive right. He is ten yards deep off the rightmost receiver. Thurmond smoothly backpedals and then squares and covers his man. The pass is short-left and Thurmond does not otherwise factor.
2. 2nd and 4 at UTAH 31 Eddie Wide rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Utah 30.
Field, ten yards off, stays square, but it's read-option run that Will Tukuafu crashes and stops for a loss.
3. 3rd and 5 at UTAH 30 Terrance Cain rush for 4 yards to the Utah 34.
Thurmond drops into cover along the right sideline. Quarterback Terrance Cain scrambles to the left and is tackled just short of the first.
1. 4th and 1 at UTAH 34 Sean Sellwood punt for 44 yards, returned by Walter Thurmond III for 78 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.
Thurmond receives, shows explosive quickness up and through his second gear. He wends through coverage and around blockers. Here's what pops: Thurmond maintains rare speed while running at angles. His speed peters out towards the end and two Utah defenders look to have an angle on him, but Thurmond redirects inside and a foot race he was losing is won by a comfortable margin. Impressive, and typical of Thurmond's career.
In four seasons:
Average kickoff return: 25.4 yards (31 attempts, no touchdowns)
Average punt return: 15 yards (11 attempts, one touchdown)
Interception return: 14.1 (12 interceptions, 3 touchdowns)
Fumble return: 25 (1, 1 touchdown)