Earlier this week Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway made the bold statement that his teams starting TE Julius Thomas was “not at that level” when compared to Saints TE Jimmy Graham.
Elway is 100% right or course. But if Elway is saying this publically, why aren’t fantasy owners taking this into consideration?
Julius Thomas has a current ADP of 28.34 according to MyFantasyLeague.com, 29.24 in the NFFC and 24.44 in the FFPC, which awards 1.5 points per reception to TE’s.
So, you’re telling me that Julius Thomas is a second or third round pick in 12 team leagues? This is absolutely absurd folks. Let’s look at the numbers.
Last year Julius Thomas racked up 65 receptions, 788 yards and 12 TD’s. That was a breakout season for sure and good for the third best TE fantasy season of 2013 behind Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis.
But let’s get real folks. As good as 65 receptions is for a TE, it isn’t great overall. Let’s look at the TE reception leaders from 2013:
Obviously, Thomas value doesn’t rely on a vast amount of receptions. He is not a PPR magnet by any means so his value in PPR leagues isn’t elite. When compared to non-TE’s his catch numbers look even worse. Check out the kind of players in his neighborhood in receptions last year:
Be honest with yourself for a moment here. Are you considering any of the names on this list in the second or even third round this year? No fricking way.
Let’s take a look at yardage shall we? Last year Julius Thomas racked up 788 yards for the Broncos. Where did that rank among TE’s? Let’s check it out:
Wondering what other players were comparable to Thomas’ receiving yardage last year? Glad that you asked:
We’ve not established that Julius Thomas isn’t an impact player in either receptions or in yardage so that leaves just touchdowns to catapult him into the high end TE’s. Let’s look at the TD leaders for TE’s in 2013:
So finally we get to it. Julius Thomas value lies almost solely in touchdowns. Obviously this is a great strength to have as TD’s transcends both PPR & standard league formats. But a few questions come to mind in reviewing these stats. Like, why aren’t fantasy owners higher on Vernon Davis then Julius Thomas? Davis had more yards and TD’s, has a longer track record of success in the NFL and is a bigger focus of the offense. Yet Vernon Davis is 2-3 rounds and between 26-41 picks later in drafts than Julius Thomas. It doesn’t make much sense.
The big question here is can we count on double digit TD numbers from Thomas in 2014? I consider that a real long shot to be honest with you. Everybody who thinks that Thomas cannot only match his 2013 numbers but actually build upon them is being real naïve.
The 2013 Denver Broncos set all time NFL records in most points in a season (606), most passing TD’s in a season (55), most overall TD’s in a season (76) and most passing yardage in a season (5477). It is easily the greatest offensive season we have ever seen. Expecting these numbers is an absurd notion and expecting even better numbers from the Broncos offense in 2014 is borderline lunacy.
There is going to be a pretty dramatic regression in total offense in Denver this year. The Broncos could lose 10% of their offensive production and still lead the league in just about every category. They could lose 15% and still lead in total yards, completions and passing TD’s. They could drop 20% of their entire offense from last year and still be a top 8 in every category. Peyton Manning could have thrown for 30% less TD’s in 2013 and still have lead the league. Get 55 TD’s out of your mind right now. If you want to anticipate another incredible season for Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense, you still cannot assume he tosses more than 40 TD’s in 2014. That would be a 30% loss of production. If we take 30% away from Julius Thomas’ TD production we are left with 8 receiving TD’s.
Projecting Thomas’ numbers in 2014 based on the expected regression of the Broncos offense you wind up with the following numbers:
61 receptions, 700 yards & 8 TD’s.
Are these the numbers of a second or third round pick? Absolutely not.
What’s worse is that Julius Thomas shouldn’t even be counted on for those numbers. These are best case scenario here folks. Do you realize that the 2014 season will be Thomas’ fourth in the NFL? He hasn’t been able to crack the field until last year and even then had trouble staying healthy. He missed two games in 2014 and was on the injury report 9 times (6 probable, 3 questionable). Injuries are a part of his history and at the TE position he will be highly susceptible to contact and prone to aches and pains.
Another thing to think about is how opposing defenses attach Julius Thomas. Last year he came out of nowhere and surprised teams early on. This year defenses will be ready for him to be sure. Although I have the utmost confidence in Peyton Manning to stay ahead of what defenses are trying to do, that doesn’t mean Thomas will have another huge season. People forget that back in 2004 when Manning originally broke the single season passing TD record with 49, Brandon Stokley was a huge fantasy player accumulating 68 receptions, 1077 yards and 10 TD’s. The following year you ask? Stokley only totaled 41 catches, 543 yards and 1 single TD.
The point here is that Jimmy Graham is a first round pick because his numbers across the board are vastly superior to any other TE. Also, he has done it for three consecutive seasons. The Saints don’t have nearly the receiving options that the Broncos do. Graham is the Saints clear #1 target in the passing game. That is what makes Graham a first round pick.
If you plan on winning your league this season you cannot spend your early round selections on guys who are coming off of once in a lifetime seasons. The early rounds are for you to gather security blankets and consistent points week in and week out. Other than Jimmy Graham, TE’s just don’t present the total receptions, yardage or TD’s that other elite WR’s or RB’s do. Instead of wasting a second round pick on Julius Thomas, you can get the same type of production 5-7 rounds later from Jason Witte, Martellus Bennett, Charles Clay or Kyle Rudolph.