Julius Thomas: 2013 Fantasy Football Week 1 Sleeper

Julius Thomas

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

All the news recently in reference to the Denver Broncos is who is going to lead the running back corps. Montee Ball appears on track to lead the way, but debate that Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman are in the mix has been all over lately. Lost in all of this tight end Julius Thomas has quietly inked himself in as the week one starter. Does he have what it takes to break out and be a week one fantasy sleeper?

At 6-foot-5 250-pounds, Thomas is a big athletic red zone target, similar to a young Antonio Gates. Like Gates and Tony Gonzalez, Thomas is a converted college basketball player. Gates and Gonzalez both turned out to be in the top tier of tight ends for their generation, and Thomas could benefit from playing with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. Peyton Manning loves his tight ends, making household names out of Dallas Clark and Joel Dreessen. Thomas is arguably more physically talented than any of Manning’s former tight ends and has already developed a rapport with Manning during the preseason hauling in 12 receptions for 123 yards.

This Sunday the Broncos will host Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens have revamped almost their entire defense this offseason leading some to question if this is the year that their defense starts to slow down. With Manning being the best in his generation (if not ever) at changing things up at the line of scrimmage, the Ravens might be in for trouble if there is any confusion with their defensive audible assignments. If that happens, odds are the Ravens will scramble to cover Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker, leaving Julius Thomas possibly open underneath Welker in the middle. Manning will find whoever is open, and it stands to reason it could be Julius Thomas.

The big problem with Thomas will be target distribution. Manning has a lot of mouths to feed in the Broncos offense with Demaryius Thomas, Decker and Welker all taking the field. It seems possible that the Ravens will likely give those three plenty of defensive attention, which could open up Julius Thomas to single coverage situations this Sunday. The Ravens’ linebackers have the size to match Thomas but not the speed, and the Ravens’ secondary has the speed but not the size. Should Thomas end up in a single coverage situation, he has the tools to make the Ravens pay.

Another problem that Thomas might face is much like Gates, Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham, converted basketball players have a tendency to struggle in pass protection and blocking. With Manning, trust is essential, and if Thomas blows a block or two, he might be riding pine in a hurry. Thomas has missed a blocking assignment during the preseason, so that is a situation to monitor going forward.

This game promises to be a close, competitive match with high scoring potential. With so many mouths for Manning to feed, it seems unlikely that Thomas will get you big yardage this week despite the shootout possibilities. I do find it more likely that he gets in the end zone than he breaks the 50 yard receiving mark. I think he gets closer to 35 yards than 50. Like I said about Alshon Jeffery earlier today, if you start Thomas in your tight end or flex spot, you are counting on the primary reads being covered, Thomas getting a solid matchup, and hitting the end zone as a check down option.

As always, I welcome your comments. If you think I’m wrong, I’m willing to listen. Just back it up with some facts and solid evidence. Thanks for reading and good luck this season.

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Dustin Manko is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @DustinManko, ”Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

Read more at http://www.rantsports.com/fantasy/2013/09/02/2013-fantasy-football-dont-bother-with-cb-tim-jennings/

Read more from Dustin here.

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  • Alex Froelich

    I just traded Antonio Gates away and Claimed Julius on Waivers. Hope he can hold up until Gronk returns. Especially in week 1. I’m playing against a dude who has both Demarius and Welker.

    • Dustin Manko

      How did you end up doing Alex?

      • Alex Froelich

        Julius did great for me. However, he had Boldin, Aj Green, Damariyus and Welker. Those 4 alone won it for him. I also started David Wilson and Lamar Miller who both did absolutely nothing for me. I’m short in running backs. I thought I drafted a good team, but now I’m not so sure. Here’s my team and any advice or info on my flexes or who I could pick up on waivers or even try to make a trade to get my team better would be awesome man! Starters: QB: Kaepernick RB1 D. Murrary RB2: Lamar Miller WR1 Brandon Marshall WR2 Julio Jones TE Julius Thomas R/W/T David Wilson R/W/T Malcom Floyd, K: Robbie Gould and Defense: Raiders (waiver wire D every week based on matchups) Bench: Rob Gronkowski, Ronnie Hillman, Big Ben, C. Patterson, Dwayne Allen and Levon Bell. (P.S. It’s a PPR league. 1st place gets $700.)

        • Dustin Manko

          Your team is pretty solid, I have a few of those guys on my teams. Your starters are solid, your bench could probably be upgraded a bit. I would make sure to have a backup ready for Murray. I’m not big on the Denver RB situation until one steps up. Gronk coming back will obviously be huge if hes 100%, allowing you to slide Thomas to a flex spot. I recently wrote about making trades, if you haven’t read that please do. Its tough to tell you who to pickup without knowing whos available. Allen and Fleener will zap each other for targets/value. I try to target players who don’t have much competition for targets. If Jordan Cameron is avail, hes worthy of a pickup. Daryl Richardson is worth getting.

          • Alex Froelich

            It’s a deep league, 14 teams. Cameron and Daryl both got drafted. There are really no great options in waivers that stick out. The only reason I picked up Hillman was due to the fact that he got dropped. I’ll give that a read. I was offered: TY HIlton for Gronk, but I think Gronk deserves more than one WR3. I asked for TY and Eddie Lacy but he isn’t having it. He also has Stevan Ridley that I would love to trade for, what would that take from my roster? Like to be fair to both sides.

  • Brian

    Hoping for big things from Thomas this year – have him in a few different leagues

  • Boss Baller

    Sunday? They play Thursday… idiot

    • Dustin Manko

      My mistake. Appreciate you reading.

  • FF Guy

    Julius Thomas or Martellus Bennett?

    • PBHT

      same thing happened to me couldnt start Thomas week 1 but happy is on my team

    • Dustin Manko

      I’ve seen Bennett get off to solid starts before then fade. I’m very weary of him. I hope he can put it together, he has the tools.

  • Good Looking Loser

    Manning put Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme on the map, not Joel Dreessen, who played in Houston for most of his career.

    • Dustin Manko

      Love the handle, made me chuckle. You have a valid point there.

  • Britt

    you are a genius…. because I saw this article, I started JT as my TE for week1 in fantasy. This is my first year to play fantasy football, and I look like a champ thanks to you =) way to go!

    • Dustin Manko

      Thanks for reading Britt. Good luck this season, let me know if you have any questions. Twitter is the best way to reach me.