Fantasy Football Fallout From Julius Thomas Trade to Miami Dolphins

The Jacksonville Jaguars agreed to trade tight end Julius Thomas to the Miami Dolphins. What”s the fantasy football fallout from the trade?

After spending the last two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Julius Thomas and his talents will travel five hours south to join the Miami Dolphins. According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, the two-time Pro Bowl tight end was acquired from the Jags for a 2017 seventh-round pick.

Despite the trade looking like a steal for Miami on paper, the trade doesn’t necessarily enhance Thomas’ fantasy value a great amount or if any at all. The reason is not because Thomas’ size and speed doesn’t make him a dangerous weapon. Instead, it’s because the former Portland State Viking can’t stay healthy enough to stay on the field.

Over the last two seasons with the Jaguars, Thomas missed 11 out of 32 possible games. During his back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons in 2013 and 2014 with the Broncos, Thomas missed a total of five games. Add those missed games up and he basically missed an entire 16-game season since 2013. As New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick once said, “Dependability is more important than ability.” If fantasy owners can’t depend on Thomas to be on the field, he’s simply wasting a valuable roster spot.

So how can we gauge one of the better receiving tight ends in the NFL who is also prone to injury? How can we figure out his fantasy value now that he’s on a team new? For that answer, we are going to have to pack our bags and go on a little trip.

Due to the fact it’s February and we have the time, we are going to travel to a place called “If Land.” This is a magical island where many homers and irrational thinkers reside on one half. They tend to base their arguments and beliefs around hypothetical statements that include but are not limited to, “If Quarterback X had better weapons, he’d be the best in the NFL” or “If Player Y caught that one pass in Week 14, we’d be in the Super Bowl right now”.

These people live and die by illogical statements and opinions instead of admitting they were wrong about something. The other half of “If Land” is a place where many educated and intelligent people reside. They use relevant and factual information in order to make reasonable predictions. (I’m not allowed to buy property on this half of the island, but they allow me to visit during the slow seasons.) This is the side of the island we are going to visit.

If Julius Thomas played in all 16 games in 2016… 

Last season, Thomas missed seven games. As a result, he finished outside the top 25 fantasy football tight ends. In the nine games he did play, he totaled 30 receptions, 281 yards, four touchdowns and 49 fantasy points (according to ESPN standard scoring). If you take these numbers and average them across 16 games, Thomas would have finished with about 53 receptions, 500 yards seven touchdowns and 87 fantasy points. In that scenario, Thomas would have finished as the No. 11 fantasy football tight end.

Note: The given stats won’t add up to the exact number of fantasy points due to non-decimal scoring on receiving yards per week. 

If the Miami Dolphins had one tight end start all 16 games in 2016… 

The Dolphins had four different tight ends start for them in 2016, and that was mostly because of injury. Some of it was due to formation and that’s why the four Miami tight ends combined for 23 starts in 16 games. For the sake of this excercise, we will look at Dion Sims, who led the tight group with 11 starts. In those 11 starts (not total starts), Sims totaled 21 receptions, 189 yards, four touchdowns and 39 fantasy points.

If we average those numbers across 16 games it comes out to 31 receptions, 275 yards, six touchdowns and 57 fantasy points. With those numbers, Sims would have been the No. 26 fantasy football tight end.

If Julius Thomas played in all 16 games in 2015… 

Back in Julius Thomas’ first season with the Jaguars in 2015, he finished with 46 receptions, 455 receiving yards, five touchdowns and 70 fantasy points across 12 games. If we average those numbers and spread them out across 16 games, Thomas would have finished the season with about 61 receptions, 607 receiving yards, seven touchdowns and 93 fantasy points. With those numbers, he would have finished as the No. 10 fantasy football tight end.

Looking at Facts

  • Julius Thomas has never played in all 16 games in any season.
  • Since 2012 when Ryan Tannehill took over as the Dolphins starter, no Miami tight end has ever been a top-five fantasy football tight end.
  • Since the Dolphins drafted Jarvis Landry in 2014, no Miami tight end has been top-13 in fantasy football.
  • According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Dolphins had the second-fewest receiving yards from the tight end position in 2016.

Early Prediction for 2017

I know the idea of Thomas reuniting with head coach Adam Gase gives people flashbacks to Thomas final two years in Denver. What you have to remember in Denver was Thomas was catching passes from Peyton Manning and not Ryan Tannehill. On top of that, across the 27 games he did play in from 2013-14, he averaged less than 48 receiving yards per game.

The main reason he was a fantasy beast from 2013-14 was because he managed to catch 12 touchdowns in each of those two seasons. Over the last five seasons in Miami with Tannehill, no tight end has caught more than six touchdowns in a single season.

As stated before, Thomas never played in a full 16-game season. In fact, in each of the last four seasons, the number of games he has missed has increased. Even if he managed to play in all 16 games in 2015 and 2016, he still only would’ve been a backend TE1 based on his numbers.

There’s no reason to trust Thomas to stay healthy for all 16 games in 2017. There’s no reason to believe he’ll catch double-digit touchdowns like he did in both 2013 and 2014. Finally, there’s no reason to believe Jarvis Landry won’t account for nearly 30% of the team’s target and reception total like he has the last two seasons. Thomas will then have to battle with DeVante Parker and possibly Kenny Stills for the remaining 70 percent.

Combine those factors with Jay Ajayi emerging as a capable workhorse running back (ninth in the NFL in carries in 2016), and there’s not a lot to love about Thomas or his situation in 2017.

Julius Thomas: 13 games, 41 receptions, 409 yards, 4 touchdowns and 61 fantasy points. 

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