After being drafted in the first-round of the 2010 NFL draft (just prior to current quarterback Tim Tebow), Thomas created a buzz in both training camp and early in the season with his explosive combination of height, speed and big play ability.
However, he also made headlines for his inability to stay on the field in 2010. Due to injuries Thomas missed six games of the season, ultimately landing on injured reserve with a torn Achilles tendon late in the season.
Thomas began 2011 on the Physically Unable to Perform list and missed the first six games of the season as a result. After returning to the team, Thomas looked sluggish and unprepared—as can be expected of a receiver who misses an extended period of time.
It was only in Week 13 versus the Minnesota Vikings that Thomas broke out with a two touchdown performance and 144 yards on only four catches.
Tim Tebow has a consistent habit of throwing to his primary receiver shockingly more than any other receiver on the field. It is due to this that Thomas thrived in the latter half of the season.
Once Thomas had shown to be a dependable receiver for Tebow he drew more targets than fellow receivers Eric Decker and Eddie Royal, both of whom had been more involved in the passing game prior to Thomas' return.
Over the last seven games of the season, which includes Denver's two postseason appearances, Thomas hauled in an average of five receptions and over 100 receiving yards per game with four touchdowns during that stretch. According to Pro Football Focus, extrapolated over an entire season these numbers would equate to the second best fantasy receiver in the NFL.
Thomas is not the first example of Tebow's single-minded passing attack—in 2010 Brandon Lloyd was a dominant fantasy receiver due to consistent targets after Tebow was named the starter and Decker also had been Tebow's favorite target early in 2011 after taking over for incumbent quarterback Kyle Orton.
Thomas' success next season hinges heavily on Tebow's continued growth as an NFL quarterback. If he begins to throw the ball both more often and more consistently accurate, Thomas' numbers should be both more consistent and over a complete season overall impressive for a young receiver—especially if Tebow keeps his habit of targeting his No. 1 receiver throughout each game.
After a fantastic second half of the 2011 season, it is safe to assume that Thomas' receiving numbers could increase tremendously in 2012, especially if Tim Tebow can develop into more of a prototypical passing quarterback.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!