Demaryius Thomas is Being Valued at his Floor
Demaryius Thomas has just finished his worst season since 2011 and his average draft position (ADP) in mock drafts reflects that. Despite a disappointing and inefficient season by his standards, Thomas still finished as the WR16 last season. His current draft position (around WR17) represents his floor, despite the massive ceiling we have seen with him. He may not catch passes from Peyton Manning anymore, but Trevor Siemian, who is currently expected to be the Broncos’ starting quarterback, showed some promise last year.
Something looked off with the former first-round fantasy pick all year, and the recent report that the preseason hip injury he suffered last year has just now finally cleared up came as a surprise after he spent just one week on the injury report all year. Per the same report, Thomas stated, “This is the best I’ve felt in my whole career.” Siemian also suffered his share of injuries; a foot sprain that had him walking in a boot, an AC joint sprain in his right shoulder, and a left shoulder tear that required offseason surgery. With the pair healthy going into 2017, Thomas should be in for a better season than last year.
Past Production and the Fall of Man(ning)
Thomas’ production with Peyton Manning was crazy. In 2012, 2013, and 2014, Thomas finished fifth, second and second respectively among all receivers in fantasy points. In 2015 he still managed to finish as the WR13 overall with a combination of Brock Osweiler and a declining Manning. In 2016 Thomas finished as the WR16 by posting consistent but not flashy games, averaging 67 yards and 5.6 receptions per game. He had a safe floor all season but rarely dominated any games like he has done in the past. However, just because he didn’t do it in 2016 doesn’t mean he won’t in 2017.
We shouldn’t expect Peyton Manning-esque production from Trevor Siemian next season, but a healthy Siemian should be able to support more production from Thomas. One of Siemian’s most noticeable flaws as an inexperienced quarterback was taking unnecessary hits by holding onto the ball too long. The Broncos are trying to work around that habit of Siemian’s by upgrading his protection. They signed OT Menelik Watson and G Ronald Leary and drafted OT Garrett Bolles with their first pick of the draft. With stronger pass protection, the Broncos can not only mitigate the effects of Siemian’s tendency to hold onto the ball but also allow Thomas a little more time to develop his routes.
If Thomas does indeed feel the best he’s ever felt going into the offseason, we will get to watch him plow over defenses with his incredible combination of size and speed. Thomas runs a 4.41 at 6’3″ and 229 lbs, and though he is over the age apex for wide receivers going into his age-30 season, he’s still young enough to perform at an elite level and shouldn’t be discounted due to age.
We Are Not Alone
The Broncos passed for an average of 230.3 yards per game last season, tying them for the 11th least passing yards per game in the league. However, they do have a number of great of receiving options on the team going into 2017, which should increase the overall productivity of the offense. Between Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders out wide and a combination of C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker, and Jamaal Charles out of the backfield, Siemian shouldn’t want for a lack of options and defenses will have more bodies to cover. The presence of several other legitimate threats should relieve pressure from Thomas in coverage, and considering Thomas towers over prototypical defensive backs, that should create some obvious mismatches for Siemian to take advantage of.
Speaking of Anderson, Booker, and Charles, the Broncos should have a solid ground game in 2017, unlike 2016. Last season, the Broncos averaged just 92.8 rushing yards per game and only 3.6 yards per carry, good for 27th and 28th in the league. By beefing up their offensive line and adding the all-time NFL leader in yards per carry, opposing teams will have to respect the run in 2017, creating more space for Thomas.
In an April press conference, Thomas mentioned that he was looking forward to working with Mike McCoy again, an offensive coordinator under whom he previously dominated. The coaching change alone may not radically alter the Broncos’ offensive production this year, but with all their additions to the offense and with their existing pieces healthy again, the Broncos are an offense to watch with Thomas leading the way.
Between the upgraded offensive line, a healthy run game, a more experienced quarterback and one of the best receiver duos in the league, the Broncos should be in for a boost in offensive production and a greater frequency of red zone visits, where Thomas has traditionally dominated. His yards per season haven’t dipped below 1,000 over the last five seasons, making him one of the safest and most consistent receivers in the league. At his current ADP, he is being valued at his floor, even though both his floor and his ceiling are among the top of the league. Now healthy again, we should really be looking at his ceiling in 2017 drafts: a bonafide WR1.