Demaryius Thomas is entering his 9th season in the NFL and coming off of a down year. 2017 was the first time since 2011 that Thomas failed to catch 90 passes and reach 1,000 yards. Thomas was catching passes from Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, and Paxton Lynch last season. With Case Keenum now in the fold at QB, Thomas is looking to contribute in a big way in 2018.
However, the question now becomes, were Thomas’s numbers down in 2017 because of quarterback play or is his own play starting to fall off? Can he return to 2012-2015 form or should you expect similar numbers to 2016-2017? With the addition of Courtland Sutton, are the Broncos just preparing for life after Thomas, or do they know his play is declining?
The following is a breakdown of Demaryius Thomas Fantasy value entering the 2018 NFL Season.
Demaryius Thomas Fantasy
Denver Broncos Offense
Vance Joseph is the Head Coach of the Denver Broncos. He is a defensive-minded coach and relies on the Offensive Coordinator to call plays. Bill Musgrave took over as Offensive Coordinator after week 11 in 2017. The final 6 weeks of the season the Broncos averaged just 17.6 points per game. This average through an entire season would have ranked 28th in the NFL in 2017.
Musgrave has only finished inside the top 10 in pass attempts once in his 9 seasons as an OC which came in 2000. He has never finished in the top 10 in passing yards in a season. However, 2015 and 2016 saw Musgrave finish 6th and 8th respectively in passing touchdowns.
Musgrave has always been a run-heavy play caller. In 2003 and 2011-2013, Musgrave’s offenses finished inside the top 10 in rushing yards. These finishes can largely be attributed to having Fred Taylor and Adrian Peterson as his running backs.
The Denver Broncos quarterback stable accounted for just 3,333 passing yards and 19 touchdowns in 2017. This averages out to 208.3 passing yards per game (20th in NFL). The Broncos topped 300 yards passing in 1 game and 250 in 2 more. There were 3 other teams (Bengals, Dolphins, Cowboys) that only reached the 300-yard plateau once, while the Bills and Ravens failed to reach it all together.
Now add Keenum and the Broncos have a quarterback that finished 2017 with 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns in 15 games which is 236.4 yards per game. If Keenum produced these numbers for the entirety of 2017 this would put the Broncos at 11th in the NFL.
If Keenum can perform close to last season and Musgrave can find a balanced offensive attack then the Broncos offense should improve vastly.
Demaryius Thomas History
Thomas entered the NFL in 2010 and was drafted by the Broncos with the 22nd pick in the 1st round. Coming out of Georgia Tech, he brought size (6’3″ 225 lbs) and speed (4.5 40) that left scouts salivating at his raw numbers. Despite his measurables, Thomas struggled as a route runner and with drops.
In 2010, Thomas’s rookie season, he played behind Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, and Eddie Royal. He managed to start 2 games while playing in 10 and caught 22 passes for 283 yards and 2 touchdowns. He followed that up in 2011 by starting 5 and playing in 11 games. In those games, he caught 32 passes for 551 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Thomas finally got his chance to start and be the focus of the receivers in 2012. He exploded that season and from 2012 to 2015 Thomas averaged 100.5 catches, 1,446.8 yards, and 10.3 TDs.
We started to see a decline in Thomas’s numbers in 2016. He was able to reach 90 catches for 1,083 yards but only caught 5 touchdowns. Siemian was the primary starter in 2016 with Lynch starting 2 games.
In 2017 we saw the worst season from Thomas since 2011. Thomas still saw 140 targets but tied a career-worst catch rate when receiving 100 targets (59.3%). He also had a career-worst 11.4 yards per reception in 2017. He finished the season with only 5 touchdowns and 949 yards on 83 catches.
Demaryius Thomas Will Succeed in 2018
Volume is a large indicator of success in football. If a player is not getting touches, they will have a tough time being successful in the NFL. Thomas has not been hurting for targets as he has topped 140 in each year since 2012. Adam Thielen accumulated 129 targets as the WR1 in Minnesota last year. This gives the WR1 for Keenum a 26.8% target share. The Broncos attempted 566 passes in 2017. If Keenum attempts the same number of passes in 2018 and Thomas gets a 26.8% target share, he will receive 151.7 looks from Keenum.
Since Thomas became a full-time starter in 2012 he has averaged a 61.9% catch rate. Assuming he is able to match that bar, he would catch 93.9 passes. With an average of 13.5 yards per reception over the same time span, Thomas would put up 1,267.7 yards in 2018. Count in his 8.5 touchdowns per season and he could be looking at a 94/1268/8 receiving line in 2018. If Thomas was able to accomplish that task in 2017 he would have finished as WR3 overall in PPR leagues.
All the numbers point to a resurgence of Thomas in 2018. Another important part of the puzzle is Keenum. He is the best QB that Thomas has played with since 2015. We can’t expect Keenum to put up Peyton Manning numbers but he should be better than the combination of Siemian, Osweiler, and Lynch.
Demaryius Thomas Will Disappoint Again
Since 2013, Thomas has seen his yards per reception drop from 15.5 to 11.4. This is a staggering drop over a 5 year period. It shows Thomas has lost some explosiveness and has no longer been able to turn the short slants and screens into big plays.
Coming into the draft in 2010, Thomas was known as a receiver that struggled with drops. During his time in the league, he has not done anything to change anyone’s mind. Since 2012, Thomas has never had fewer than 7 drops and has ranked inside the top 5 in drops in 5 of 6 seasons as a full-time starter. His drop issues are a good way to get a new quarterback to lose faith in him. This is especially true with a talented receiver like Emmanuel Sanders in the locker room.
The Broncos have seen the decline in Thomas and are prepared to feed him fewer targets if the decline continues. They drafted Sutton 40th overall. It is very apparent they want him to take over for Thomas in the future. If Thomas continues to struggle with drops and his yards per reception drops again the future could come at some point in 2018.
Demaryius Thomas Fantasy: My Take
Current ADP has Thomas going around 4.06 and I love the possible value Thomas can provide at this draft spot. I am grabbing Thomas in leagues where I can. I am expecting numbers similar to 2016 but with more touchdowns. Thomas should get somewhere between 8-10 scores.
Keenum is going to play a major role in the viability of Demaryius Thomas Fantasy value as a high-end WR2. If Keenum shows that 2017 was not a fluke then we should see a return to form for Thomas.
Thomas doesn’t turn 31 until December 25th and he has the physical tools to play good football into his 30s. Look at guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, and Jordy Nelson. All three guys had successful seasons after turning 30. Thomas is a guy that can continue the trend in 2018.
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