Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Fantasy football tight end sleeper: Julius Thomas

The 2017 season is approaching and tight end Julius Thomas begins a new chapter with the Miami Dolphins. His two seasons in Jacksonville were a bust, but being reunited with former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator and current Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, he is my pick as the top tight end sleeper.

Adam Gase Connection

Gase became the offensive coordinator in Denver under head coach John Fox in 2013. 2013 was also the year Thomas became the starting tight end with Peyton Manning and company. Thomas broke onto the scene with 65 catches for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He would finish as the third tight end in fantasy that season.

He also excelled as one of Manning’s favorite targets in the red zone. From inside the 20-yard line, he finished seventh in receptions (14), second in yards (112) and sixth in touchdowns (8). He finished fifth in yards (33) and sixth in touchdowns with five from inside the 10-yard line.

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas (Photo by:nfl.com)

The following season, Thomas slipped a little but still had another good season. Although his numbers in receptions (43) and yards (489) dropped from the previous season, Thomas recorded 12 touchdowns for the second straight season. Thomas still finished seventh in fantasy under tight ends.

He was efficient in the red zone especially inside the 20-yard line. He was seventh in receptions (13), eighth in yards (94) and third in touchdowns with nine. From the 10-yard line, he improved to fourth with seven receptions and six touchdowns.

In the two years under Gase in Denver, Thomas reached elite status. He finished no worse than the number seven fantasy tight end in standard leagues over that span, combining for 108 catches for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Down production in Jacksonville

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas (Photo by:profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)

In 2015, Thomas got his big pay day as he signed a five-year, $46 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. What people forget is that Thomas wasn’t going to have the same amount of success he had in Denver. Not having Manning was a a big factor to some for Thomas’ decline.

In the 2015 season, he had a stretch of four straight games in which he caught a touchdown. He finished with 46 catches, 455 yards but only had five touchdowns. Catching touchdowns was part of the popularity with Thomas in fantasy. Most of the targets went to wide receiver Allen Robinson. Players like Robinson, Blake Bortles and Allen Hurns improved in fantasy and this hurt Thomas’ production as an elite fantasy player.

The following season, Thomas caught four touchdowns from weeks 1-11 before missing the rest of the season due to injury. His four scores in that span were tied for second among all tight ends.

Thomas had moderate stretches of success while in Jacksonville, but injuries plagued seasons (missing 11 games in two seasons) and limited him to 21 games with nine touchdowns and 35 yards per game.

2017 Outlook

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas and Adam Gase (Photo by:oregonlive.com)

The move to Miami could be the best situation for Thomas as he reunites with Gase. He was a fantasy stud in Denver, and Gase could be a big reason why, given his track record with tight ends.

In 2015 as the offensive coordinator in Chicago, Gase helped Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller combine for 87 catches for 878 yards and eight touchdowns, which would have been the number seven Fantasy tight end in standard leagues.

Last year with the Dolphins, the combination of Dion Sims, Jordan Cameron, MarQueis Gray and Dominique Jones had 55 catches for 551 yards and six touchdowns. It would’ve been good for the number 10 fantasy tight end. So there is some optimism for Thomas to bounce back.

However, there could be some problems for Thomas. Dolphins’ running back Jay Ajayi had a breakout season, and they have a core of young receivers in Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker along with re-signing Kenny Stills. Thomas will have a role in the offense, especially closer to the red zone, but he will likely be the third or fourth option in a balanced offense with a lot of guys to feed the ball to.

If Thomas stays healthy, he could reemerge as a top fantasy tight end. He’s worth a late-round flier as a second tight end. There’s little risk and plenty of reward with Thomas and Gase back together.

 

Featured image from miamidolphins.com.

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2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 40-31

This class of wide receivers is deeper than it has been in years for fantasy football. You can win your league with two stud running backs in the first round and take one of these wide receivers as your number one, so pay attention to this list if you’re going to take two running backs.

 

40. Randall Cobb (Green Bay Packers): In 2015, when Jordy Nelson suffered a season-ending knee injury, the demand for Randall Cobb was high. He was the No. 1 wide receiver on a high-powered Packers offense, but he didn’t live up to expectations.

He followed up his disappointing 2015 season with an even more disappointing 2016 season. Cobb had 610 receiving yards and six touchdowns, and less catches per game last season than any season since 2014.

Mike McCarthy wants Cobb to get more involved in the Packers’ offense, but with a healthy Jordy Nelson, an emerging Davante Adams and a recently acquired Martellus Bennett, targets are going to be hard to come by. Don’t draft Cobb too early, but if the price is right take him.

39. Jeremy Maclin (Baltimore Ravens): The Chiefs made the surprising move to cut Maclin this offseason. He ended up signing with the Ravens on a two-year deal. Jeremy Maclin had a disappointing season with the Chiefs but is in line for a lot of targets this season with Baltimore.

After losing their core of receivers and recently losing tight end Dennis Pitta, Jeremy Maclin is the new No. 1 receiver in Baltimore. He’s playing with a reliable (and elite, debate that in the comments if you must) quarterback in Joe Flacco, but there are some things that make Maclin unreliable.

He ranked in the bottom half of production and efficiency last season and has dealt with his fair share of injuries. He ranked 62nd in receptions and 69th in receiving yards. I have high hopes for Maclin given his current situation in Baltimore, as he has a chance to regain his No. 1 wide receiver status.

2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 40-31

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38.  Pierre Garçon (San Francisco 49ers): Pierre Garçon had a bounceback season with the Washington Redskins last year. Quietly, he was one of the most productive receivers in the league last season. He ranked 16th in the league in receiving yards with 1,041 and 17th in receptions with 79. He’s now joining a revamped 49ers team led by quarterback Brian Hoyer.

Not only was Garçon one of the most productive receivers, he ranked in the top half in efficiency. Pierre Garçon was the 13th-ranked receiver in terms of yards per target and that number can increase during Garçon’s tenure in San Francisco.

All in all, I didn’t agree with his choice to leave Washington, but I do think Garçon will surprise people and keep up his production next season.

37. Devante Parker (Miami Dolphins): The long awaited breakout of Devante Parker came last season, kinda. Parker had a nice year, with 744 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He has drawn criticism from head coach Adam Gase and hasn’t fully emerged as the big receiver everyone thought he would be.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Parker should be catching more touchdowns than he did. He had only seven end zone targets which ended up as four touchdowns, which is weak for his size and role in the offense.

With Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry on the Dolphins’ roster, there’s limited space for targets for Parker. He needs to emerge as a big end zone threat to make some noise in fantasy this season.

36. Eric Decker (Tennessee Titans): I don’t think Decker would make this list if he was still on the Jets. Riddled by injuries last season, Eric Decker never got the chance to do anything noteworthy for the Jets. But in 2015, we saw the Eric Decker that we expected. He was one of the most productive receivers in the league ranking in the top half in categories such as receptions, receiving yards, total touchdowns and fantasy points per game.

Now he heads to Tennessee to play alongside Demarco Murray and Marcus Mariota. The up-and-coming Titans offense has their new No. 1 receiver and Decker has the opportunity to regain his status from 2016.

2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 40-31

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35. Willie Snead (New Orleans Saints): Willie Snead has found success early in his career in the NFL. Snead has eclipsed 850 yards and 65 receptions in both of his seasons in the NFL so far. Playing with elite quarterback Drew Brees, Snead was the number 2/3 wide receiver for the Saints but now things have changed.

Brandin Cooks is gone but the emergence of Michael Thomas has put Snead as the No. 2 receiver. Snead won’t flash anything special in terms of efficiency and production, but one thing he is, is reliable. His reliability is what makes him so intriguing, as he’s a lock to gain 900 yards and five touchdowns. Take him as a No. 2 receiver or flex and love the numbers.

34. Desean Jackson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Another old face in a new place. Desean Jackson almost played a full season last year and was as explosive as ever. Jackson eclipsed 1,000 yards for Kirk Cousins and has the opportunity to be even better this year.

Most likely lining up in the slot and returning punts, Jackson has big play ability written all over him. Playing with Mike Evans and Jameis Winston, the new look Bucs have a high-powered offense and a lot of potential.

When healthy, Jackson can put up big yardage, but the only issue with him is he won’t have the touchdowns that the stud wide outs will have.

33. Brandon Marshall (New York Giants): From one New York team to the next, Brandon Marshall finds himself in a good situation with the New York Giants. He is the No. 2 wide receiver behind the top tier, two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Eli Manning.

Last season didn’t go as planned for Brandon Marshall but he’s a big bodied, reliable receiver with something left in the tank. The Giants pass on 62 percent of their plays and Marshall has the opportunity as the No. 2 receiver to see tons of targets and big plays in the red zone. The Giants weren’t great in the red zone last season, as they were successful on 51 percent of their plays, but Marshall will help in that category. Expect double digit touchdowns from Marshall this year.

2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 40-31

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32. Kelvin Benjamin (Carolina Panthers): Everyone is down on Kelvin Benjamin this season and I don’t know why. He missed his sophomore season with a torn ACL, and didn’t quite rebound like everyone thought he would. He still had 941 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Those numbers were only slightly worse than his impressive 2014 rookie campaign. Keep in mind that the entire Panthers offense was out of sync last season.

Now the revamped offensive line and a healthy Cam Newton makes KB an intriguing fantasy player this year. Still the No. 1 receiver in Carolina, Kelvin is a monster and has the opportunity to be a stud this year.

31. Stefon Diggs (Minnesota Vikings): Diggs broke out as the No. 1 receiver for Minnesota last season. He had 903 yards and three touchdowns in 2016. Stefon Diggs ranked in the top 15 players in the league in terms of receptions with 84 and fantasy points per game with 13.

The Vikings did a lot to revamp their offense by bolstering the offensive line and adding rookie running back Dalvin Cook. Teddy Bridgewater won’t be under center for the Vikings this season, as he recovers form his a knee injury. Diggs won’t have double digit touchdowns due to a lack of looks in the red zone, but 1,000 yards is very possible as he is a clear WR2.

 

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