Julius Thomas burst onto the fantasy-football scene in a major way. The Denver Broncos tight end posted 110 yards and two touchdowns on five catches. Denver blew out the Baltimore Ravens, 49-27, and Thomas has become one of the biggest targets on the waiver wire heading into Week 2.
But can he do it again? The answer is a resounding yes. Denver takes on the New York Giants in New York in Week 2, and Thomas can have another strong game.
First, let's take a look back at his highlights from the win over the Ravens.
In the first picture, Thomas (yellow box) is lined up tight on the right end of the line. He's going to bump off of Elvis Dumervil and head into space. The Baltimore cornerbacks (black lines) are giving plenty of cushion on the bottom of the picture.
Peyton Manning releases the ball as he's hit, and Thomas has a ton of space to work with. Thomas (yellow) has beaten the defender in front of him and has about 15 yards before any other Baltimore defender could even come close to making a play. It winds up being an easy 24-yard touchdown for Thomas.
On his second catch, the key thing to notice is all of the yards after the catch. He's lined up tight to the left side of the Denver formation (yellow box), from which point he's going to run out to the left sideline and make the catch at the Denver 48-yard line.
Baltimore safety Michael Huff has a chance to knock him out of bounds and limit his gain. Instead, Thomas spins away from him and rumbles down the sideline to the Baltimore 24-yard line. Thomas winds up with 26 yards after the catch. Denver was facing 1st-and-20 on that play, and Thomas made it look like nothing.
On his second touchdown, Denver is using a play-action fake to running back Montee Ball (orange circle). The wide receivers (white arrows) are running deep. Thomas (yellow) starts out slowly on a delay, then runs along the yellow line.
Manning is looking right at Thomas and has a clean pocket to throw from. Thomas makes the catch and bounces off of Huff at the goal line for the touchdown.
Thomas had a stellar game for two reasons. He was able to break tackles to rack up yards after the catch and also ran the right routes in the middle of the field while the defense was preoccupied with the wide receivers.
The 25-year-old Portland State product is getting praise in the newspapers for his effort.
Lindsay Jones of USA Today wrote that Thomas "flashed the potential to become the type of game-changing tight end the Broncos haven't had since Shannon Sharpe."
That's an impressive and flattering comparison.
After looking back, let's look ahead to Sunday's game.
There was a fascinating stat attached to the recap of that game found on ESPN.com. This comes from ESPN Stats & Information:
Of Romo's 49 passing attempts, 33 of them were thrown 5 yards or fewer downfield (67%), his largest percentage of passes thrown within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage in a game since 2008. Romo's final 8 completions were within 5 yards, and he completed 85% of such attempts (73% last season, 4th-best in NFL).
So what does that mean? The Giants were vulnerable to the short passing game and Romo took advantage of it. Peyton Manning is also known for his short passing game, and he should also be able to exploit the Giants defense as well.
When you put it all together, everything lines up right for Thomas to have a second straight week with at least 75 yards and a touchdown catch.
He's going to be the darling of the waiver wire, and there's good reason why. If you missed out on the Denver receivers in your league's draft, here's your chance to get a piece of the action.
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