Julius Thomas NFL Stats
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Julius Thomas NFL Game Log
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(Compared to other TEs)
Free Agent Team Injury Report
The salad days of Denver feel like decades ago. Thomas scored 24 touchdowns in 2013-14, but fell to nine TDs in two Jacksonville seasons. He also saw notable dips in his YPC and his catch rate, never establishing a rapport with Blake Bortles while dealing with a host of nagging injuries. Thomas has still never played a full season, and his stock dropped so low that the Dolphins acquired him for a mere seventh-round draft choice. He also had to restructure his deal, taking less money and dropping a year from the contract. If you want to build a positive narrative for Thomas, note that his best seasons came with current Miami coach Adam Gase when they were both breathing Mile High air. But Peyton Manning isn't walking through that door, and the Dolphins don't lack for quality at the RB and WR positions.
Thomas was already in a tough spot leaving the Broncos for the Jaguars last season, but then he broke his hand in the preseason opener, costing him the rest of training camp and the first four games of the season and delaying his growth with a new offense and quarterback. He returned Week 5, but never seemed to get fully acclimated. He had only four games with more than 50 receiving yards and one lone 100-yard outing, despite drawing nearly seven targets a game, a pace that would have given him more than 100 targets in a complete season. A full offseason immersing himself in the Jacksonville passing game and working with quarterback Blake Bodes should at least help with his 57.5-percent catch rate (30th among TE) and 5.7 YPT (26th), as Thomas' 4.64 40 speed should make him a weapon downfield. Also, Thomas, 6-5, 250, needs to improve his 3-for-9 showing in the red zone. Most of Thomas' value in Denver came from getting into the end zone – indeed he averaged only 47.3 YPG in 2013-14. Jacksonville could be similar with Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee around to move the chains. The biggest thing for Thomas, though, remains health. Five years into the league, he is still searching for a full season.
After becoming a star in Denver, Thomas cashed in by signing with the Jaguars this offseason, his $24 million guaranteed the most ever for a tight end. The offensive downgrade is obvious from Peyton Manning to Blake Bortles, and while Jacksonville has a good crop of young receivers, Thomas will be the weapon defenses look to stop first. The Jaguars likely will use him all over the field like the Broncos — seam routes from in tight, crossing routes out of the slot, fade routes when split wide — but there will be no Demaryius Thomas to draw double-teams; Julius will draw the double-teams this year. But at 6-5, 250, with 4.6 speed and a 35.5-inch vertical, Thomas won't be shut down even by double-teams, though he likely won't match his 71-percent catch rate the last two years, either. The biggest question is how he'll fare in the red zone, where he derived much of his fantasy value, especially last year. In 13 games, Thomas had 13 red-zone catches for nine scores, helping him tie for the lead among tight ends with 12 touchdowns. The Jags, meanwhile, totaled 16 catches and five touchdowns inside the 20 as they had the second-fewest red-zone drives in the league (32). Thomas also continues to be an injury risk, never playing a full season in his four-year career. In fact, the start to his 2015 season is slated to be delayed by finger surgery.
In his third year in the league last season, Thomas finally realized the massive playmaking potential his exceptional athletic skills held. At 6-5, 250, with 4.6 speed and a 35.5-inch vertical, the former college basketball player was virtually uncoverable. He caught 72.2 percent of his passes, third among qualified tight ends, and gained 400 yards after the catch (fourth). The Broncos used him all over the field, running fade routes lined up wide, crossing routes out of the slot, seam routes from in tight. Playing with the best wideout group in the game often assured Thomas of single coverage, which he exploited for 12.1 yards per catch and 8.8 yards per target. And playing in the best passing offense of all time last season, with Peyton Manning, assured Thomas of plenty of opportunities despite being the fourth receiving option. In the red zone, he caught an impressive 14-of-17 passes for eight touchdowns; inside the 10-yard line, he caught 5-of-6 for five scores. He could see even more work near the goal-line this season, as Eric Decker, who had 23 red-zone targets, left for the Jets. The only worry with Thomas is health. He missed two games last year with knee and ankle injuries and totaled just nine games the previous two years combined.
The former college basketball player is an athletic freak but with Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen, not to mention Virgil Green, ahead of him on the depth chart, Thomas' fantasy potential remains quite limited.
Thomas has failed to break through as a consistent player for the Broncos, battling injuries and better players above him on the depth chart. With Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen on the roster now, the latter doesn't figure to change, leaving Thomas with minimal opportunities to make an impact.
A fourth-round draft pick, Thomas finds himself on a Broncos team in need of tight-end production. He played four years of basketball at Portland State before walking onto the football team, but the Broncos believe he has the most long-term upside of their tight-end options. While he needs to improve his blocking at the line he has enough speed to stretch defenses and a good set of hands to make catches in traffic. Dan Gronkowski is more adept at blocking than receiving, so Thomas has a shot to earn targets in the passing game.