January 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) reacts to a touchdown reception the second half against the New England Patriots in the first half of the 2013 AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more Premier Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
Demaryius Thomas is so good that even Tim Tebow couldn’t keep him from succeeding. Thomas struggled to stay healthy over his first two NFL seasons, but even with year two with Tebow under center, we started to see the fantasy football beast he was destined to become.
Thomas put up an impressive 17.2 yards per catch that year in 2011, catching 32 balls for 551 yards and four touchdowns in 11 games. Already viewed as an elite physical talent that just needed some refinement, Thomas was predicted by many to blow up in 2012, once the Denver Broncos got a “real quarterback” in Peyton Manning.
The premonition rang true.
Thomas became a borderline unstoppable force on the outside, while he made busting long runs off of bubble screens commonplace. In the end, Thomas turned himself into an elite fantasy weapon with Manning at the helm, finishing his third season as a pro with career highs across the boards in receptions (94), receiving yardage (1,434) and touchdowns (10).
From there, Thomas and Manning’s connection was only expected to get better. Eric Decker had one side locked down, and with the signing of slot receiver Wes Welker last off-season, suddenly the Broncos had the tools to torch any defense on a weekly basis.
The slight concerns of Welker negatively impacting Thomas’ numbers were put to rest immediately in week one, as Thomas took five receptions for 161 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Just a piece of the dynamic puzzle that was to become a historic Broncos offense, Thomas went on to finish his fourth NFL season with 92 receptions, 1,430 receiving yards and a career high 14 touchdowns.
Forget about raw ability and the weapons around him. Having an elite arm getting him the football has made Thomas one of the best wide receivers in football and an elite WR1 in the fantasy realm.
Needless to say, Thomas is a lock to hit on the numbers we’ve seen him get the last two years, if not even exceed them in 2014. Eric Decker is now gone and will be replaced with Emmanuel Sanders, which could potentially mean even more targets.
Naturally, Manning loses a familiar target he had at his disposal for the past two seasons, so he’ll likely look to the guys he’s used to throwing to a little more. Decker also was a stout possession receiver who hauled in 80+ receptions in each of the last two seasons, while Sanders has never cracked even 70 catches in a season and has a history of injury issues.
That all adds up to a potential career high in catches for Thomas in 2014, who is far and away Denver’s top threat in the passing game. That should also equate to another 1,400+ yardage season, as well as a third straight season of 10+ touchdowns.
Thomas kept improving even up to the Super Bowl last season, where he set a Super Bowl record with 13 receptions. The Seattle Seahawks played physical coverage and swarmed around him the second he got the ball, but when Thomas was put in a situation to succeed, he still got the job done. In fact, he scored Denver’s only touchdown of the game.
While Thomas ended the season on a high note statistically, he did carry a minor concern into the off-season after injuring his shoulder in Denver’s tough loss to the Seattle Seahawks in this past year’s Super Bowl. However, according to reports, Thomas does not have a separated shoulder as some had originally feared, and is expected to be 100% by the time camp rolls around.
The beauty of Thomas is that he’s still not a finished product. Despite the gaudy numbers the past two seasons, he still can improve in his route-running, concentration and overall awareness.
Thomas’ skill-set and surroundings put him in the discussion for top fantasy receiver, especially considering he came in second in 2013 and even topped Calvin Johnson (third), who is widely regarded as the top fantasy receiver. Unlike Johnson, Thomas has a lot of other weapons to worry about, yet was still so effective that he still came in second overall for wide receivers behind Cleveland Browns wide receiver, Josh Gordon.
Naturally, Thomas and his fantasy owners should be thinking about the #1 spot in the fantasy receiver rankings for 2013. Gordon took the crown by putting up an insane 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns. However, in comparison, Thomas actually hauled in five more receptions last year, and even scored five more touchdowns.
If Thomas can simply put up a career high in yardage and keep his touchdown total at 14 or even raise it, he will absolutely be in discussion for the top receiver spot.
The beauty with Thomas, though, is you might get the number one wide receiver in fantasy football in 2014, but you won’t have to pay a first round price. Calvin Johnson is drafted in round one on a yearly basis and is currently slated around the sixth spot in standard fantasy drafts. Thomas has surely risen from his ADP (average draft position) of a year ago, as fantasy owners are paying attention to his second place finish and making him the second drafted receiver on average. Right now he’s generally being taken with the 10th overall pick in a 12-team draft on average, but can still slip into the second round. Depending on what type of league you’re in and who you’re drafting with/against, Thomas could still slide behind the likes of A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall or Josh Gordon.
For comparison’s sake, Thomas was being drafted further down into round two or three in 2013, as guys like Julio Jones and Dez Bryant were viewed as major breakout candidates. Thomas oddly took a backseat, yet his 2012 season was just about as amazing as the one he would put up in 2013. One thing’s for sure: fantasy owners aren’t going to be over-looking Thomas this year.
With Peyton Manning slinging him passes, solid talent around him and an elite skill-set only getting better, the sky truly appears to be the limit for Thomas as he enters his fifth NFL season.