When the Denver Broncos selected tight end Julius Thomas in the fourth round (129th overall) of last year’s draft, heads turned a little bit.
Sure, the former basketball player was being compared to Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzales, but his body of work didn’t necessarily lend itself to the Broncos taking him early on in the draft. He only played one year of football at Portland State where his primary sport while going to school there was basketball. In that one year on the turf, he had 29 receptions for 453 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The 6’5″, 255-pound tight end didn’t have much of a chance to prove himself in his rookie year due to suffering an ankle injury in week 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals. He had just one reception last season and was listed as a game day inactive for 11 games.
Thomas had surgery to repair his damaged ankle ligaments last week and he should be ready to go for training camp come August.
This will be a huge off season for Thomas developmentally. Basketball players, specifically power forwards, seem to make the transition to tight end fairly easily because they are tall and understand how to box a guy out while jumping up to grab the ball. Many of those skills are applicable to football which is why the Broncos think Thomas will be a natural.
Thomas has a lot of work to do this off season not only rehabbing from injury, but improving his skills to compete with guys like newcomers Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen, as well as returning tight end Virgil Green.
If there’s one guy who can make Thomas’s transition to the NFL easier, it’s Peyton Manning. Manning has made guys like Dallas Clark and Austin Collie household names. Thomas could easily be another beneficiary with his size and great hands.
For Thomas, simply making the roster is the first step, however. The rest comes in time.