Even after finishing as the No. 1 scoring wide receiver in Apex Leagues last season, it still feels like Demaryius Thomas is undervalued. Currently being drafted behind A.J. Green in MyFantasyLeague’s ADP, Demaryius Thomas is not getting the respect he deserves.
There are several reasons why Demaryius Thomas is the superior fantasy player. Let’s start by comparing their stats from last season:
Besides for receptions, which have to do with Green’s sheer volume of targets, Demaryius Thomas wins in every statistical category. With 37 fewer targets, Thomas has more receiving yards and touchdowns. This may have more to do with their quarterbacks than actual talent but speaks volumes nonetheless.
What’s Due to Change?
The coaching change in Cincinnati is sure to have fantasy implications for A.J. Green. While former offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is known for his tendency to air it out, new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is known for his reliance on the rushing attack. To validate these theories I decided to examine each of these coaches play-calling tendencies.
Let’s start with Jay Gruden’s stint as the Bengals play-caller for the last three seasons:
|Bengals||Rush Att||Pass Att||Rush %||Pass %|
During his three-season stint, Jay Gruden’s offenses passed roughly 55% of the time, while running 45% of the time. So far, the theory of Gruden being a pass-heavy coach holds truth. Now let’s take a look at Hue Jackson:
|Raiders||Rush Att||Pass Att||Rush %||Pass %|
During his two-year stint with the Raiders, Hue Jackson was far more run-heavy than Gruden despite having a mediocre Raiders team. There’s an argument to be made that he’ll be even more run-heavy with a superior Bengals team, who would be smart to run the ball and play solid defense to hide Andy Dalton. Considering the Bengals are likely to maintain a lead more frequently than the Raiders in 2010-2011, perhaps they’ll be running even more.
Projecting This Season
If you average the pass attempts of each coach, Gruden comes out with 554, and Jackson, 507.5. Let’s assume A.J. Green still demands 32.5% of the Bengals pass attempts and multiply it with Jackson’s average pass attempts. This gives us a guesstimate of 165 targets for A.J. Green, which would be 15 fewer than 2013.
Although he’ll still be a WR1, the transition to a run-heavy offense is likely to have adverse implications on Green’s target total.
While A.J. Green stands to lose targets, Demaryius Thomas has the opportunity to gain some. With the departure of Eric Decker, the Broncos are looking to replace 137 targets that led to 87 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns. Decker’s targets represent 20.8% of Manning’s total pass attempts.
Yes, the Broncos have signed Emmanuel Sanders and drafted Cody Latimer but considering how efficient the Manning-Thomas connection has been over the last two seasons, it would be surprising if Thomas didn’t gain at least a few more targets.
Standing at 6’3”, 229 lbs. Thomas also provides red-zone prowess that few in the league have. Yes, I know A.J. Green is also a big red-zone target, but he doesn’t play with arguably the best regular-season quarterback ever. Add in the fact that the Bengals will likely be in the red-zone much less frequently than the Broncos, and it’s easy to see why Thomas has more scoring potential than Green.
To sum it all up, A.J. Green is expected to lose targets while Demayius Thomas stands to gain some. Considering his age, likely targets, extraordinary efficiency, and quarterback, Demaryius Thomas deserves to be in the argument for fantasy’s No. 1 overall wide receiver. At worst, he’s the clear No. 2.