Julius Thomas looks like a streaming fantasy TE in Miami

The former Bronco and Jaguar was traded to the Dolphins Monday, according to reports. Tyler Loechner looks at his stock.

| 3 months ago
(Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

(Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Julius Thomas looks like a streaming fantasy TE in Miami

The Miami Dolphins have acquired tight end Julius Thomas from the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for a late-round 2017 draft pick, according to Miami Herald columnist Armando Salguero.

Thomas, who will be 29 when the 2017 season begins, was an elite fantasy tight end in 2013 and 2014 in Denver under the tutelage of offensive coordinate Adam Gase. By moving south from Jacksonville to Miami, Thomas will be reunited with Gase — a fact many in the fantasy-sphere have already picked up on and gotten excited about.

Of course, Thomas was also playing with Peyton Manning in Denver, and his production (predictably) fell off a cliff when he moved to Jacksonville and teamed with Blake Bortles in 2015. Miami’s Ryan Tannehill is somewhere in between Manning and Bortles, but he’s certainly not at Manning’s level in terms of making stars out of anyone who plays with him. We can talk about the Gase connection all we want, but that nugget loses its luster when factoring in the Manning variable.

With that said, Thomas had moderate stretches of success while in Jacksonville, so it’s not entirely fair to say he was simply a byproduct of Manning’s greatness. In 2015, Thomas had a stretch of four straight games in which he caught a touchdown. In 2016, he caught four touchdowns from Weeks 1 to 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.

So how will Thomas fare in Miami’s offense? Dolphins tight ends in 2016 were an amalgamation of Dion Sims, MarQueis Gray, Dominique Jones and Jordan Cameron — that group caught 55 passes for 551 yards and six scores.

If all of that production is funneled to Thomas, he ends with a stat line somewhere around 50-60 receptions for 500-600 yards and 6-8 scores. This line would make him a back-end TE1 in both standard and PPR leagues.

It’s hard to envision Thomas doing much more than that. The Dolphins found a workhorse in Jay Ajayi in 2016, and they have a core of young receivers in Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker, and re-signing Kenny Stills is reportedly a priority this offseason. The Dolphins also spent a third-round pick on Leonte Carroo in last year’s draft.

In other words, it’s a full house, and while Thoams will have a role, he’ll be closer to the bottom of the totem pole than the top. Thomas will be playing with a better quarterback and a familiar coordinator, but he’s moving to a more balanced offense that has more mouths to feed.

Thomas will progress through 2017 as a viable tight end streaming option, but he doesn’t need to be drafted.

Tyler Loechner is a lead writer at PFF Fantasy. He has played fantasy football since 1999 and has been a part of the PFF Fantasy staff since 2010. Tyler was also previously a fantasy football featured columnist at Bleacher Report.

  • Christoph Szabo

    The Miami Dolphins have acquired Thomas from Jacksonville, not the other way around….

  • Chad

    Gase made top ten streamers of Zach Miller and Martellus Bennett in Chicago too after Thomas in Denver, so his offense utilizes athletic tight ends. That said last year Dolphins didn’t really use their TE as Jordan Cameron continued to be a major disappointment. So that definitely puts a damper on the upside of the Thomas acquisition.

    • Tyler Loechner

      Yeah – it’s certainly not a bad situation for Thomas, but it’s not a slam dunk situation either. His touchdown production will keep him fantasy relevant, but his yardage will keep him from being a weekly starter, I think.

  • Cris Collinsworth

    It is the 3×1 sets in the Red Zone that are key. They will set Thomas on the single receiver side flanked out, and if he gets single coverage he gets the ball on a slant or a fade.

    • Tyler Loechner

      He’s definitely a viable red zone threat, and in the situation you spelled out, it’s easy to see Thomas winning those matchups more often than not. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him end with 8 touchdowns on the year (that would have been enough to tie for the NFL lead among tight ends this year).

      His TD output will keep him fantasy relevant, but it’s hard to see his yardage totals giving him a safe enough floor in weeks where he doesn’t score a TD. He’ll be one of the top streaming TEs this year, but it’s hard to envision him producing on a consistent enough basis to be a set-it-and-forget-it fantasy TE for season long leagues.