Jaguars Sign Julius Thomas
Tyler Loechner examines the fantasy impact of tight end Julius Thomas signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jaguars Sign Julius Thomas
Thomas made an immediate splash on the fantasy scene in 2013, catching two first-half touchdown passes in the first game of the season. It started a trend fantasy owners grew accustomed to over the next two seasons: Julius Thomas was a touchdown-catching machine. At one point in 2014, there was a legitimate thought that Thomas would challenge Randy Moss’ record of 23 touchdowns in a season.
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But Blake Bortles is no Peyton Manning, and Thomas will find catching touchdowns and scoring fantasy points a significantly harder task in Jacksonville. This may seem hard to believe, but consider that Thomas caught more touchdowns (12) last season than Blake Bortles threw (11). And Thomas missed three games.
Despite catching 12 touchdowns last season, Thomas was a fringe TE1 on the season as a whole. He ended as the 10th highest-scoring tight end in PPR leagues. Granted, he only appeared in just over 12 games games due to injury, but the purpose of this statistic is to highlight that Thomas’ fantasy value has been overly reliant on his touchdown rate.
Thomas averaged just under 41 yards per game last season, 16th most among all tight ends. His 3.6 receptions per game was also 16th among tight ends, behind players such as Charles Clay, Jermaine Gresham and Mychal Rivera.
Where he had value: Thomas caught a touchdown on 20 percent of his targets last year, second-most among all tight ends. That 20 percent touchdown rate was tops among tight ends with over 20 targets, and by far the most among all tight ends with at least 50 targets.
He also had the third highest touchdown-per-target rate among tight ends in 2013, at 13.6 percent. The tight end average was just above 6 percent last year. In other words, Thomas’ touchdown rate will assuredly regress, especially when you consider that he caught seven of his nine end zone targets – an impossible rate to sustain.
These are all reasons to not love Thomas’ move to Jacksonville. There are some things to like – such as the fact that Jacksonville’s receiving corps – highlighted by Thomas, Justin Blackmon, Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns – is now one of the most enticing on paper.
Perhaps the fact that Thomas won’t be the only viable weapon in Jacksonville will help mitigate some of the damage his move from Manning to Bortles inflicts on his fantasy value. Some holes may be there for him down the seam as a result, and defenses won’t be able to zero in on Thomas in the red zone as much as they’d like — a bonus Thomas enjoyed in Denver.
The reality, however, is that Thomas’ fantasy value has taken a huge hit. He was a must-start option in Denver because of the fact he could score three touchdowns on any given week, but he’s more of a fringe TE1 in Jacksonville.
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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.