In fact, he ranked second among all receivers in Yahoo! fantasy football standard formats behind only Josh Gordon and finished the season with an impressive 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns. Denver’s entire receiving corps is the league’s best, but Thomas was Peyton Manning’s No. 1 option on a consistent basis.
However, if you ask any NFL fan outside of the Colorado area to name his or her top-five wide receivers, there is a fairly decent chance Thomas’ name wouldn’t be brought up. Guys like Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson and even upstart Alshon Jeffery have arguably more national recognition than Thomas.
Even Thomas’ teammate Wes Welker, who finished with 652 fewer yards in the 2013-14 season than Thomas, receives more attention on a consistent basis.
Perhaps some of the lack of attention directed toward Thomas is because Manning is his quarterback.
After all, we are talking about one of the best quarterbacks (if not the best) to ever lace it up who could probably turn a group of mediocre college receivers into passable NFL producers.
Sure, there may be some merits to that line of thinking. Just look at how Thomas described one of his impressive performances earlier this season to Joan Niesen of the Denver Post:
"Whenever they need to count on me, I try my best to do what I've got to do. They gave me opportunities. They put me in the right spots. I made plays."
He sounds like an interchangeable piece there, which isn't exactly fair.
Thomas deserves more credit than he even gives himself. He has the perfect combination of size (listed at 6’3” and 229 pounds) and speed that every team looks for in wide receivers. He has posted more than 1,400 yards the past two years and is just entering the prime of his career.
Furthermore, Thomas put up better numbers this year than any receiver playing with an elite quarterback who goes by the name of Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers (who was admittedly hurt much of the season).
What’s more, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne were seen as two of the NFL’s elite wide receivers when Manning was throwing them the ball. Thomas should be too.
With the Broncos heading to the Super Bowl behind their record-setting offense, Thomas will finally start to get the attention he deserves. He posted 134 yards receiving and a touchdown against the Patriots on a national stage in the AFC Championship and will have another opportunity to do so in front of a world-wide audience the next time he takes the field.
Also, don’t discount the role that fantasy football could play as Thomas enters his prime. It is becoming more popular every season to the point where millions of people are playing, meaning that any player who puts up video-game like numbers will receive attention from football fans across the country.
Another season or two like 2013 will firmly cement Thomas’ name among the list of the NFL’s best pass catchers. The national attention will shortly follow.
Move over Johnson, Green, Marshall and Fitzgerald; you have company.