Fantasy Football Profile: Demaryius Thomas
Once a consensus WR1 among the experts, there is now a divide on whether or not Demaryius Thomas is a solid player to own on your fantasy team. Some have Thomas as high as their No. 10 receiver, while others have him as low as their No. 24 receiver. Thomas’ cost in redraft leagues right now sits 32nd overall and 15th among wide receivers. From my personal experience, you will see Thomas going anywhere from the late-second round, to the middle of the fourth round, making him a very polarizing player in 2017.
Two Sides to Every Story
Depending on who you talk to, you’ll hear different sides to his story. On one hand, Thomas hasn’t finished outside the top 20 wide receivers since way back in 2011. He also hasn’t seen less than 141 targets since that time. He’s finished top-five three different times. And even with Trevor Siemian as his quarterback, he was serviceable in 2016, so it can’t get any worse.
On the other hand, Thomas has been trending down for the last few seasons, going from the No. 3 wide receiver in fantasy, to the No. 13 in 2015, and then to his low point as the No. 19 wide receiver in 2016. His target totals have gone down each of the last two seasons, from 184 in 2014, to 177 in 2015, and then to 144 in 2016. The only times he finished as a top-12 wide receiver came with Peyton Manning, and he might just have another first-time starter throwing him the ball in 2017.
Everything you just read is true, but which side makes more sense? When looking at the fact that Thomas is going to be 30 years old this season, it’s only natural to wonder if he’s lost a step. Since his breakout season in 2012 where he averaged 10.2 yards per target, that number has essentially decreased every year, all the way down to 7.5 yards per target in 2016. His yards per reception has been dropping as well, coming all the way down to just 12.0 in 2016, the lowest mark of his career.
Looking at the question marks surrounding him with/without Manning, we need to look at the splits in order to settle this. It’s important to know that every player’s numbers would decline without Manning, but with Thomas, it’s rather extreme.
|Games||Tar/gm||Rec/gm||Yds/gm||TD/gm||TD/Tgt||STD Pts||PPR Pts|
As you can see, the numbers are down across the board and they were even lower with Siemian last year. Not just that, but did you know that Thomas hasn’t scored 25 PPR points in a single game since Week 12 of 2014? This is cause for concern when you’re looking at a player being drafted as high as he is. It’s important to note, though, that he had just two games with fewer than 8.0 PPR points in 2016, which is what I would consider a bust. His 12.5 percent bust rate was tied for the sixth-best in football behind only Mike Evans, Jordy Nelson, Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, and Michael Thomas.
Something can be said for his floor last year, but what about WR1-type performances? It took 19.9 PPR points on average to finish as a WR1 in any given week last year, a number that Thomas hit just four times, or 25 percent of the time. As a reference, Stefon Diggs also hit that mark four times. Despite crossing that threshold four times, Thomas failed to record more than 22 PPR points in a single game in 2016. A large part of that is because he scored just one touchdown over the final nine games of the season. It’s really odd to see that when their running game struggled as much as it did in that time.
Outside of the quarterback position, things have remained rather stagnant for Thomas over the last few years in terms of competition for targets. Both he and Emmanuel Sanders were the clear-cut 1-2 punch, while Jordan Norwood, Bennie Fowler, Jordan Taylor, and Cody Latimer fought for No. 3 duties. The Broncos attempted to rectify that situation when they selected wide Carlos Henderson in the third round of the NFL Draft. When writing up my rookie profiles this offseason, I compared Henderson to Golden Tate, a wide receiver who can make things happen after the catch and play all over the field (read that here).
Seeing the target numbers go down for Thomas over the last few years isn’t something that’s likely to change in 2017, either, as the Broncos have made it clear they want to run the football. To do that, they acquired Pro Bowl offensive guard Ron Leary and took offensive tackle Garrett Bolles in the first round of the NFL Draft. They also signed Jamaal Charles and drafted De’Angelo Henderson in the sixth round. Not to mention, they’ll be getting back a healthy C.J. Anderson. All of these changes should help their offense, and in turn, lead to more scoring opportunities for Thomas.
Bottom line here is that Thomas is a declining player on a not-so-great offense. His splits with and without Peyton Manning are somewhat alarming, and we haven’t even talked about the wildcard of all this – Paxton Lynch. If the Broncos decide to move on from Siemian and onto Lynch, it’s only more of a reason to run the ball and let their defense do the work. If you’re a Super Bowl caliber team (which the Broncos are), you don’t draft a wide receiver in the third round if you don’t intend to use him. Thomas is a rock-solid floor type player, but why draft someone like him in the 2-3 round range when you can get a similar stat line in the seventh round with Pierre Garcon? I’d probably call him a low-end WR2 at this point in time, with a possibility of falling out of the top-24 wide receivers.
To see all the player profiles that have been done this off-season, click here. There will be many more in the coming weeks.