Coming off a solid second season, will Thomas join the ranks of third-year receiver breakouts?
The 6-3, 229-pound wide out showed signs of great things to come in 2011, most notably when he torched the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ defense in the first round of the playoffs for a whopping 204 yards on four receptions, including the game-winning touchdown in an 80-yard connection with quarterback Tim Tebow to beat the Steelers 29-23 in OT.
Thomas, 24, was also the lone bright spot during Denver’s 45-10 thrashing the following week at the hands of the New England Patriots, hauling in six catches for 91 yards. This was the second time he exploited the Patriots’ secondary, as he he hauled in seven catches for 116 yards in the first meeting in Week 15 of last season.
He also lit up the Minnesota Vikings‘ porous secondary with four catches for 144 yards and a pair of scores.
However, his only other rather impressive showings were in Weeks 14 and 16, when he racked up seven receptions for 78 yards and a score against the Chicago Bears (Dec. 11) and chalked up four catches for 76 yards on Dec. 24 at the Buffalo Bills.
Given the inconsistent quarterback play and run-first approach the team took last year, Thomas’ stats shouldn’t come as a surprise. In addition, the former first-round selection (22nd overall in 2010) played in 11 games with just five starts in 2011 and was seen as a project and a raw receiver coming out of college.
It’s important to remember that Detroit Lions superstar receiver Calvin Johnson didn’t take the world by storm right away, either. Megatron, who also came from the confides of the run-first option offense at Georgia Tech, collected just 48 receptions for 756 yards with four scores in 15 games (10 starts) in his rookie season in 2007.
New York Jets rookie receiver Stephen Hill should see big numbers in his second or third year as well.
Look for a more balanced Broncos attack with Manning making the decisions under center. However, don’t expect Denver to suddenly turn into the Green Bay Packers or New Orleans Saints.
It will take time to gets things going on offense (especially with the brutal schedule), albeit Decker already appears to have great chemistry with the 36-year-old quarterback.
Thomas is slotting out as a WR2 in 12-team leagues, according to Mock Draft Central. He’s the 22nd player taken off the board at his position. Deckier comes in at No. 34, which makes him a WR3.
Expect Decker to be more consistent while Thomas will have more monster games. This will all depend on his health, however. In two seasons, Thomas has missed 11 games, including five contests in 2011. Not to mention, Manning is returning to the iron man that he was prior to last year.