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Fantasy Breakdown: Julius Thomas / Branden Albert Trade

Julius Thomas
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Breaking down the Julius Thomas Trade

Trade Recap: The Miami Dolphins announced they have made a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars for two-time Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas. In return, the Dolphins will send the Jaguars their seventh-round pick (211th overall) in the 2017 NFL draft.

I don’t know what your favorite part about playing fantasy football is, but for me, I love playing the tight end roulette. Round and round the wheel goes, will Julius Thomas ever catch touchdowns again? Nobody knows!

Remember when Peyton Manning did more than just appear in Papa John’s commercials? Remember in 2013 and 2014 when he threw 24 touchdowns to some guy named Julius Thomas? Those were the days…whatever happened to that guy? Well, he went to Jacksonville for some big money and caught just nine touchdowns in two seasons. He had more missed games (eleven). This season, however, Thomas is going to part of the Miami Dolphins, and in an entirely separate trade, the Jaguars have acquired left tackle Branden Albert from the Dolphins. This is a classic case of two underperforming players trying to resurrect their previous success on new teams.  Is the grass greener in one part of Florida versus the other? Let us discuss the repercussions of the trade for both Miami and Jacksonville to find out.

Miami Dolphins Looking to Upgrade

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Miami made this trade point-blank to reunite Thomas with his former offensive coordinator Adam Gase whom he had much success with in Denver. These feelings were mutual. Before the 2016 season, Thomas had told former Dolphins tight end and current free agent Jordan Cameron to take a pay-cut to stay with Miami so that Cameron could flourish under Gase. That didn’t transgress due to Cameron’s concussions, but it appears Thomas still feels that Gase can bring the best out of tight ends. So, reuniting these two should bring Thomas 12 touchdowns/season correct? Not quite.

First off, you need to remember which quarterback was throwing to Thomas those two seasons in Denver: Peyton Manning. This was not noodle arm Peyton Manning. This was elite Peyton Manning. He averaged 47 passing touchdowns in 2013 and 2014. We saw what Thomas did with Blake Bortles and now he is with Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill won’t come close to Manning’s averages and will most likely end up passing around his career average: 26 touchdowns/season (includes Matt Moore’s statistics from the remainder of the 2016 season). A simple proportion shows that based on these averages, Thomas will most likely end up somewhere near seven touchdowns solely because the total volume of touchdowns will be less than it was in Denver. Quarterback play is a huge influence for fantasy players and it should not be overlooked. In some cases, players are still productive despite not having great quarterbacks. However, in this case, I would hardly classify Thomas as one of those players for multiple reasons.

Thomas, like most tight ends, is very touchdown dependent. He does not amass many yards. He has never had more than 800 yards in a season and has yet to surpass 500 yards in the past three seasons. His 2014 and 2015 campaigns are very similar despite one being with Denver and one being with Jacksonville. In 2014, he had 43 receptions on 62 targets for 489 yards and twelve touchdowns. In 2015, he had 46 catches on 80 targets for 455 yards and five touchdowns. This just shows that Thomas will not be putting up monster yardage numbers on a consistent basis and needs the end zone to be fantasy relevant. The only thing Thomas has been consistent at has been missing games. He has missed 16 games in the last four seasons. With his touchdown dependence and injury history, it is hard to get excited for Thomas in 2017. I also do have some questions about how he will fit into the Dolphins offense.

Miami has officially also re-signed wide receiver Kenny Stills, so he will continue to play a significant role in the offense. This is not great news for Thomas because if Stills had departed those nine touchdowns may have gone to benefit Devante Parker and/or Thomas. Jarvis Landry only scores on average five touchdowns per season so he won’t influence Thomas’ production. However, the Dolphins will continue to be a run-first team with Jay Ajayi. In games, they won in 2016; the Dolphins averaged 30 rushing attempts for 144 yards. In losses, they averaged 17.5 rushing attempts for 64 yards. As much as we want to think the Dolphins want our fantasy teams to win, they will be focused more on winning the actual game by running the ball. Tight end Dion Sims is much more of a run-blocking tight end that the Dolphins want to re-sign. He may potentially take snaps away from Thomas. It has also been reported that Thomas was traded in part since he was a poor run blocker for Jacksonville. Not exactly what you want from a tight end in a run-first offense.

Overall, I would like to predict that Thomas will have a slightly improved year from last year and finish as a top 15 tight end in standard scoring assuming he does not miss too many games. But for those of you think this will be Julius Thomas from Denver, I must disagree.

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Jacksonville Jaguars Back to Basics

Thomas obviously did not work out in Jacksonville so trading the tight end was a smart move.  Acquiring Branden Albert from the Jaguars will hopeful will bolster the offensive line which will help the entire offense.  The Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line ranked 22nd per Pro Football Focus and Albert will be replacing Kelvin Beachum who struggled in 2016.

In regards to the tight end position, Marcedes Lewis is 32 years old and is coming off an injury so he can be avoided. With the receivers, I think that Thomas leaving is a great thing. As if Allen Robinson, could not get enough targets, this just means his volume will go up even more. This trade is perfect for Marqise Lee because he runs most his routes from the slot. He will be the receiver catching passes down the seams, something Thomas was supposed to do in Jacksonville. Lee was heavily involved after Thomas got hurt. Lee was second in targets (46) after Week 12. Now onto running backs.

Tom Coughlin has come out and said that he wants the Jaguars to be tougher. In my eyes, what he is saying is they need to run the ball more and win the battle at the line of scrimmage. The running back, they will utilize the most I believe will be Chris Ivory. Let us be honest: that dude is one tough running back, especially for opposing linebackers to tackle. But the key to the offense is still the quarterback.

Blake Bortles…UGH. Coughlin has been noncommittal of having Bortles as the starter so who knows if he even will be playing in 2017. He only has value in two-quarterback leagues because of his garbage time potential.

Branden Albert presents a nice addition to get the Jaguars going, but they still have a lot of work to do.

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About the author

Andrew Erickson

Andrew is a Roger Williams University graduate where he majored in Marketing. While there he interned at a sports marketing agency where he had the opportunity to work with many professional athletes like Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.

After college, Andrew started to write his own fantasy blogs via Wordpress.com to show his friends why he calls himself the Fantasy Football Master. He calls himself this because back in '07 in his first ever fantasy football league he drafted the Bears defense in the 1st round. He then proceeded to win the entire league. #DefenseWinsChampionships

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