Fantasy Football Player Focus: Julius Thomas

 

There is always a player in an opening week game that freaks everyone out and sends them running to the waiver wire. After Thursday, Julius Thomas became that player. The only real thing I heard about Bronco’s tight ends before Thursday was that Joel Dressen was out. I didn’t really pay any mind to this as I figured Manning would pay more attention to the new acquisition Wes Welker and give Demayrius Thomas plenty of looks. While some people may have been tuned in a little more to the TE situation in Denver, I do not think that anyone could have predicted Julius Thomas potentially being the leading fantasy scorer among tight ends in week 1 for the 2013-2014 season. There are two somewhat dangerous notions to follow as a result of Thomas’s performance.

1. This is the best game he will have all year and there are a lot of mouths to feed in Denver

2. He is the second coming of Jimmy Graham

Lets go over the first one. You are going to hear most analyzers saying that this is the best game that Thomas will have all year. That could be true, but perhaps some of this coming from the experts is from them being a little hurt they didn’t have Thomas in their sleeper columns. Granted, Manning is not going to throw 7 touchdowns every single game, but he will be throwing a ton as the running back committee is mainly set up to protect him. If we look at the targets from Thursday, Demayrius Thomas had 11,  Wes Welker had 11, Eric Decker had 7, and Julius Thomas had 7. Eric Decker only hauled in two catches, and Demayrius Thomas had 5 catches out of his eleven targets, so Julius Thomas pretty much did the most with the opportunities that he had. You can’t know how a season will turn out from just one game, but it appears that Decker will become an after thought in the passing game which pretty much leaves Welker and Demayrius Thomas as the top receivers in Denver. So just from looking at the targets, it looks like Julius Thomas makes some big stats when he has hands on the ball. Many people are saying that it isn’t surprising for a tight end to go over 100 yards receiving, but a lot of people are saying he won’t repeat this performance touchdown wise. I slightly disagree with that. I think Welker will have less touchdowns as the weeks go on, and if you are in the redzone are you going to target a 5’9 185 pound Wes Welker, or a 6’5 245 monster Julius Thomas? If Manning throws four-five touchdowns a game, I can see Thomas grabbing at least one of those. Being a former college basketball player, you know he has the hands to catch anything that Peyton throws up to him, and from evidence of the Ravens game he is going to be able to out muscle pretty much anyone that tries to stop him. While it is unlikely he repeats this performance, I still wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up with a three touchdown game one Sunday and has at least one on the other Sundays.

Jimmy Graham played football for one year before being drafted in the NFL, and prior to 2010, Thomas did not play football for his college. Graham is listed as 6’7 265 pounds, and Thomas is 6’5 245 pounds. They are pretty similar when you look at them, but the one glaring difference between them is production. Since being drafted in 2010 Graham has 215 receptions for 2,648 yards with 25 touchdowns, while Thomas was drafted in 2011 and his career stats are six receptions for 115 receiving yards and two touchdowns. While the possibilities for Thomas are exciting, reality may set in as soon as week two that Thomas is human.

So from all of those stats, is Thomas worth a pick up? I would say yes unless your bench is super stacked. If Thomas receives consistent receptions, he may not be as sexy as he was Thursday night but he could easily finish as a top ten tight end, and he could even finish in the top five. He is more than likely to provide you with some frustrating weeks, and his real value is going to end up on his touchdown production and the health of the receivers around him. The possibilities of what he can do are really exciting but he still needs to prove himself. He will probably be off waivers this week in 95% of leagues, but if you have a chance I think he is worth a bench spot. If he sucks in the next two games you can dump him, and if he is solid but not out producing your current tight end you can always trade him for someone who needs an upgrade at the tight end position.

This is a case where time will tell if we have the next Jimmy Graham, but for right now Julius Thomas is worth a spot on your bench to find out.

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