TE Julius Thomas, Free agent
HT: 6-5, WT: 246, Born: 6-27-1988, College: Portland St., Drafted: Round 4
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Average draft position
Current as of August 25th. [Full ADP list]Overall: Z Stacy (27), R Cobb (28), Julius Thomas (29), R Gronkowski (30), A Ellington (31)
Position: J Graham (8-TE1), Julius Thomas (29 - TE2), R Gronkowski (30-TE3), V Davis (47-TE4)
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PPR Average draft position
Current as of August 25th. [Full PPR ADP list]Overall: R Gronkowski (27), A Ellington (28), Julius Thomas (29), A Morris (30), Z Stacy (31)
Position: J Graham (8-TE1), R Gronkowski (27-TE2), Julius Thomas (29 - TE3), J Cameron (51-TE4), V Davis (58-TE5)
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What a difference a year makes! Entering the 2013 season, Thomas had career totals of seven targets and one reception for five yards in two years as a pro. An ankle injury during his rookie season (and the surgery required to repair it) had stunted his growth in the NFL. It was shaping up to be a make-or-break season for Thomas last year. Thomas didn’t only make it, but he made it big in 2013. His season-opening performance against the Ravens (five catches, 110 yards, two touchdowns) put him on the fantasy map and he didn’t slow down much after that. The former basketball star at Portland State still has tremendous upside. He’s only been playing organized football for five years now, and he’s still learning the nuances of the position. Thomas has worked hard to build strong chemistry with Peyton Manning, and his work ethic shows through on the field. Thomas is a mismatch every time he lines up. Linebackers can’t cover him because he’s too fast and athletic in the open field. Safeties struggle to cover him because he’s too big and knows how to effectively “box out” smaller defenders. He missed two games last year due to a knee injury, and Thomas still finished as the 3rd-best fantasy tight end in 2013. If he stays healthy for the full season he should push Jimmy Graham (Saints) as the best tight end in the league. Thomas is a weapon, and he’s one the Broncos will use time and time again to move the chains and threaten defenses. He should be selected as high as the second tight end off the board in your fantasy draft behind Graham. Now that he’s arrived, everybody knows his name—and Julius Thomas can be a great asset for your fantasy team.
2013 Game Summaries
Week 1 - Outside of Peyton Manning, Julius Thomas was the only skill-position player on the field for every one of Denver's 74 offensive plays. Julius spent most of his evening blocking, only running a route on about a third of his snaps, but he made the most of those limited opportunities as he led all Broncos in receptions, yards, and touchdowns at halftime. Thomas was a huge mismatch in the middle of the field in the first half as Baltimore focused attention on shutting down Denver's outside receivers. Julius Thomas is so big, strong, and athletic that at times it's easy to mistake him for Denver's other Thomas, receiver Demaryius. As a blocker, Julius Thomas remains a work in progress. When he was moving forward in run blocking, Thomas did an adequate if unspectacular job. When asked to hold his ground in pass protection, Thomas was often overmatched, allowing several pressures on Peyton Manning through the night.
Week 2 - Once again, tight end Joel Dreessen could not dress for the game, and once again Julius Thomas became the only skill player other than Peyton Manning to play every offensive snap. Julius Thomas struggles mightily in pass protection, which means Denver is more likely to send him out into pass patterns, where he's one of Peyton Manning's favorite targets. The sure-handed Thomas didn't dissect the Giants as he did the Ravens, but he still finished his day with 47 yards and a touchdown.
Week 3 - Julius Thomas reached the end zone for a third consecutive week, but otherwise was an afterthought as Denver focused more on their other offensive weapons against Oakland. Despite playing almost every snap once again, Thomas saw just four targets, and he joined Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Knowshon Moreno with a drop of a well-thrown Manning pass. Interestingly, all four of Thomas' touchdowns this season have come on balls thrown short of the end zone where Thomas has had to run it in the rest of the way himself.
Week 4 - The return of Joel Dreessen and Denver's huge lead led to Julius Thomas seeing the sideline more against Philadelphia than he had all season long, as he appeared in just 62 of Denver's 76 offensive snaps. Nevertheless, Thomas remained just as involved in the passing game, as for the fourth consecutive game he was out in a pass pattern between 27 and 31 times. As expected, Denver's glut of offensive weapons has left Julius Thomas' targets inconsistent, but Thomas managed to haul in all four of his targets against Philadelphia, earning three first downs in the process, including a key conversion on 3rd-and-long on Denver's first drive. Even though he failed to score a touchdown for the first time all season, Denver made it clear that Julius Thomas remained an important part of their passing game.
Week 5 - After receiving only 8 targets in the last two games combined, Julius Thomas reminded everyone that he's still a matchup nightmare waiting to be unleashed. Dallas' linebackers had no answer for Thomas, who led all Broncos in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns. In addition to his 9 receptions, Thomas also drew 21-yard pass interference penalty. Thomas's first touchdown was a beautiful backside shovel pass ripped straight from the pages of Urban Meyer's playbook, and it shows the number of ways Denver is willing to use Thomas to get him involved. Thomas also proved unstoppable on slant routes over the middle, as no Dallas defender was capable of handling his size at the line of scrimmage. Both of Julius' touchdowns came on short passes and after-the-catch efforts, which means for the season each of his six touchdowns have come on passes that he caught outside the end zone and ran in himself.
Week 6 - Julius Thomas began his day on a high note, catching his first target of the game for a 3-yard touchdown reception on 3rd down. His final play of the game was another good one, as Thomas caught an 11 yard reception on 3rd and 8 and put Denver inside Jacksonville's 5 yard line. In between, though, Julius Thomas had a very forgettable outing. Thomas' other five targets yielded just two receptions for 8 yards and no first downs. Thomas briefly had another touchdown reception, but he slightly bobbled the ball as he was going out of bounds and the initial ruling was overturned on replay. The catch had a relatively high degree of difficulty, and Thomas made up for it by drawing a pass interference penalty in the end zone on the next snap. Julius Thomas' blocking, which has been up and down through the season, was just down against Jacksonville as Thomas struggles to show consistent improvement in the area. On a brighter note, even with blocking specialist Joel Dreessen back healthy, Denver still had Thomas play every snap on offense.
Week 7 - Julius Thomas had a chance to show off his basketball background early, as his first target of the day was a high pass over the middle in 3rd and 6 that Thomas converted for a 12-yard touchdown. Thomas managed to grab the ball and immediately secure it with just his fingertips before his momentum carried him out of the back of the end zone. After that, targets were hard to come by on the day, as Thomas drew just 6 of Peyton Manning's 49 pass attempts. Outside of his first touchdown, Thomas did not do much to distinguish himself as a receiver, but he did get manhandled in pass protection late; after Denver get the ball back while down just 6 points, Thomas allowed his defender to get a hand on Manning's arm to force an interception, ending Denver's last best chance at a victory. Thomas drew some tough assignments in pass protection, as Denver several times left him one-on-one on an island, but ultimately, while he is a weapon as a receiver, he is still struggling mightily with his blocking.
Week 8 - Julius Thomas’ day was cut short by an ankle injury early in the 3rd quarter. Prior to his injury, Thomas had been targeted three times, hauling in all three for 29 yards, including a 19-yard catch-and-run conversion of 3rd and 1 to set up Denver’s first touchdown of the day. Thomas sounded optimistic after the game, but the team scheduled an MRI for his ankle on Monday. In Thomas’ absence, Denver relied more heavily on blocking specialist Joel Dreessen, who did manage to get open for a 1-yard touchdown on 4th and goal.
Week 10 - Julius Thomas didn’t receive many looks in the passing game, but he made the most of the targets he got. All three of Thomas’ receptions converted for a new set of downs, including a 4-yard gain on 3rd and 3. One of the incomplete passes thrown Thomas’ way was overthrown, while the second was well defended by the Chargers. The highlight of his day, however, and the difference between a forgettable and a fantastic game, came on Denver’s 3rd play from scrimmage. Denver ran a play fake and Manning did a simple toss to a wide-open Thomas in the flat after San Diego’s defense bit. Thomas continued on and managed to squeeze through a very tight window between a blocker and the sideline, tight-roping as he went, before reaching the open field and turning on the jets. The result was a 74-yard touchdown, with 70 of those yards coming after the catch. Aside from his work as a receiver, Denver dramatically reduced Thomas’ work as a blocker, keeping him in for pass protection on just one of his 61 snaps.
Week 11 - Julius was used sparingly against the Chiefs, but he demonstrated what a tough matchup he is on his first reception of the night. Safety Eric Berry played him well, but Thomas managed to use his massive frame to block Berry out for the reception and then run the ball into the end zone for his 10th touchdown of the year. Thomas also added 34 more yards and a pair of first downs on two more receptions before halftime. In the third quarter, Thomas received only two targets, both of which were incomplete on 3rd down. During the latter play, Thomas appeared to hyperextend his knee, and trainers came on the field to check him out. Thomas hobbled off the field under his own power and went into the locker room to get checked out. He returned the sidelines shortly thereafter and even played a couple more snaps before deciding that he couldn’t play through his injury. Denver then shut him down for the rest of the night.
Week 14 - Julius Thomas reached the end zone again, but otherwise had a poor showing against the Tennessee Titans. Outside of his touchdown, Thomas’ seven targets produced just one first down, and his 7 yards per reception were the second lowest of the season. More, Thomas’ blocking woes continue to haunt him. Denver rarely keeps him in to block on passing plays, but on running plays, Thomas was frequently a liability against a struggling Titans run defense.
Week 15 - With Wes Welker’s concussion leaving Denver lacking options in the intermediate area and over the middle of the field, Julius Thomas received his largest workload since week 5 against Dallas, and Thomas’ 8 targets ranked second on the team. Julius Thomas started the day off very well, netting a pair of first downs and 33 receiving yards on the opening drive as Denver marched down for a touchdown, but those would be his last two successful plays of the day, as Thomas was a frequent target on Denver’s failed 3rd down attempts. In addition, Thomas remains a very poor run blocker, and also played a role in the struggles of Denver’s ground game.
Week 16 - With Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker proving too much for Houston to handle, Julius Thomas was once again able to feast on the lessened attention he received. Julius Thomas was targeted on a 4th-and-3 attempt, and he caught the ball for two yards, but he took a step backwards trying to avoid the tackler when he could have converted by simply lowering his shoulder and pushing for the final yard. Otherwise, Denver moved him around to get him some favorable match ups and then took advantage both deep and short. Denver managed to get Thomas lined up with J.J. Watt in coverage, which resulted in a deep throw that fell incomplete. On Peyton Manning’s last touchdown of the day, Denver also managed to get Julius Thomas in single coverage with a linebacker with no safety help over top, and Peyton Manning tossed a fade for an easy 25-yard score.
Week 17 - Julius Thomas caught all five of the passes thrown his way against the Oakland raiders, three of them gaining a new set of downs and the other two setting Denver up for a much easier conversion on the next play. He wasn’t featured as heavily in the passing game as in most weeks, and he didn’t have a chance to do much damage with the ball in his hands, but he was a reliable target who helped keep Denver’s offense moving. Unfortunately, Julius Thomas continued to struggle with blocking assignments, which has been his big weakness all season long. Several unsuccessful Denver runs came from Thomas failing to seal his edge properly. Unlike most offensive starters, Julius Thomas continued to play with the second team offense after halftime, finally earning a rest when the fourth quarter rolled around.
Week 19 - In Denver’s last meeting with the Chargers, Eric Weddle held Julius Thomas in check. In the divisional round, the return of Wes Welker kept Weddle’s focus elsewhere, and allowed Julius Thomas to lead all Broncos in receiving yards. Thomas was workmanlike on the day, hauling in 6 of the 7 passes thrown his way, with the exception being one of Denver’s 5 dropped passes on the day. Julius Thomas was responsible for a turnover to start the 2nd quarter after the official ruled that he caught the ball and fumbled, but replays were inconclusive and it seemed as if the pass could have just as easily been ruled incomplete. Regardless, Julius made up for it late, as a blown coverage on 3rd-and-17 allowed Thomas to get open for a 19-yard conversion. Three plays later, Thomas caught a 9-yard gain on 3rd-and-6 to effectively end San Diego’s last hope for a comeback.
Week 20 - Denver’s game plan against the Patriots called for Julius Thomas to be featured early and often, as Thomas’ 11 targets and 8 receptions both led the team. With the running game struggling to gain traction, Denver relied on short passes to Julius Thomas to pick up short gains on early downs, with Thomas netting four targets on first down in the first half. In the second half, Peyton Manning began targeting Julius Thomas more in the intermediate-to-deep zones, as Thomas gained 71 of his 84 yards after halftime. He proved a difficult matchup for New England’s defense and had a strong game all around, although the biggest blemish was a dropped touchdown pass on 3rd and 1 in the 4th quarter, forcing Denver to settle for a field goal and setting the stage for New England to make things close late in the game.
Week 21 - Like most Broncos, Julius Thomas found it tough sledding against the fearsome Seattle Seahawks defense in the Super Bowl. Thomas’ first reception of the game came on 3rd and 5, and Seattle announced that things were not going to go his way as they immediately swarmed the powerful tight end after a 3-yard reception, preventing any yards after the reception. The rest of the game for Thomas mostly consisted of him struggling to get open against Seattle’s talented safeties. Thomas was the target on Manning’s first interception, but the ball was tipped slightly and he was badly overthrown. Thomas’ year-long struggles blocking for the running game also reared their head, as Thomas joined the rest of his offensive teammates with one of his worst showings of the year.