Just when you thought it was safe to cement Mike Sims-Walker as your perennial No.2 fantasy receiver, in comes another Mike Thomas to crash the party.
Young Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Mike Thomas made himself relevant on the NFL scene last season, piling up 866 yards receiving to go along with 4 touchdowns. His game-winning catch against the Texans in Week 10, which involved a lucky tip from a Texans cornerback on a last-second hail mary, may have been the catch of the season. (see video below)
Playing for a team that wasn’t expected to challenge for the division title, the Jaguars and Thomas found their groove midway through the year, rattling off three straight wins from the span of Week 8 to week 10 before dropping their final three, flushing their playoff chances down the drain in the process.
While the Jaguars were inconsistent last season, that same trait echoes across their division. Peyton Manning and the Colts are getting older and had to squeak into a wildcard spot last year, the Titans have quarterback issues plus a new coach, and the Texans despite all their talent on offense, still haven’t figured out a way to put it all together. Also, and perhaps more importantly, the defenses in that division are all average at best, which is a big plus for Thomas.
I am a big believer in taking up-and-coming players over guys who just had monster seasons, especially if that up-and-comer performed well late and maybe had a big game in the playoffs. Good performances when games matter most can do wonders for a player’s confidence and also the coach’s confidence in them, these are signs of a true fantasy football sleeper. For example, I saw Eagles tight end Brent Celek emerge as a consistent receiver late in 2008, culminating in a two touchdown performance in the NFC Championship game against the Arizona Cardinals.
The following year in my fantasy draft, Celek fell in my lap at round 12, and he didn’t disappoint me. He scored 8 touchdowns in 2009 along with 971 yards receiving. If Vernon Davis hadn’t played out of his mind that season, Celek would have been a pro-bowler, no doubt.
But how is the situation within the Jaguars setting up for Thomas to put up quality numbers similar to Celek or perhaps better? According to rotoworld.com, Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter emphasized defense as the teams main pursuit in free agency once the lockout ends, and there’s even a possibility that Mike-Sims Walker will be on his way out, so Thomas isn’t likely to see a decrease in playing time. The Jaguars didn’t draft any big name receivers in the 2011 draft either, so no worries for Thomas there.
Also, The Jaguars quarterbacks targeted Thomas 99 times last season, more than any other Jaguars receiver. He caught 66 of them, a decent percentage.
If you play in a league where touchdowns aren’t as significant and consistency is key, Thomas should be one of the top guys on your draftboard. Thomas had 10 games where he caught at least four passes last season, and as he enters his third season, will only get better. The Jaguars seem to believe in this guy, so keep your eye on Thomas this coming season.