As a 6-foot-4, 246-pound former collegiate basketball player, when Thomas was drafted by the Broncos in the fourth round, he was incredibly raw, having played just one year of college football at Portland State University, but was ideally sized to play tight end and very athletic, drawing comparisons to eight-time Pro Bowler Antonio Gates.
So far, Thomas has gone mostly unnoticed in the NFL due to nagging injury problems, but Broncos fans and coaches had seen some high potential in preseason games. Now that he has a few years of NFL experience under his belt and understands the level of mental and physical preparation necessary to be successful in this league, he is finally healthy, in football shape and heavily producing like his potential indicated he should – 14 receptions, 199 yards and four touchdowns in three games.
Just about every aspect of Thomas’ game has vastly improved over the last two years. From route running to reading defensive coverage’s and even his catching ability. Though it is impossible for this exponential growth to continue for much longer, at only 25 years old, he still has plenty of time to perfect the nuances of his position, especially while under the tutelage of Peyton Manning.
Ultimately, the rise of Thomas makes the Broncos’ offense complete. Like a certain oriental rug, he just really ties the room together. With defenses already worried about Decker, Welker and D. Thomas, J. Thomas’ size and athleticism creates mismatches that force the defenses into single coverage all across the field – and that’s easy pickings for a quarterback like Manning.
Believe it or not, Thomas is tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions this year, and with his size and ability to go up for the ball, he could very well become Manning’s favorite red-zone target for the rest of the season and a Pro Bowler for years to come.
Written by John Spina. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @jsspina24.