Editor’s Note: To help you dominate your rookie drafts, this series will feature a look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of over 40 dynasty rookie draft prospects and run all through the month of May and into July. We’ll cover all the premier prospects but also give you critical information on some of the lesser-known talents. All of these rookie updates will be loaded into our ever-evolving 2018 Rookie Draft Guide – the ultimate resource for dynasty enthusiasts all over the world.
Name: Ian Thomas
Position: Tight End
Pro Team: Carolina Panthers
College Team: Indiana Hoosiers
Draft Status: Fourth round, 101st Overall
- Height: 6’4’’
- Weight: 259 Pounds
- Arm Length: 32 1/2’’
- Hands: 10 1/2’’
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.74
- Three Cone: 7.15
- Vertical Jump: 36’’
- Broad Jump: 123’’
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Thomas knows how to use his size to create separation from defenders. He’s uber-aggressive at the catch point which makes him very difficult to cover. Once he has the defender boxed out, he usually has a clean path to catching the football. For his size, he’s a very agile athlete. He is also very quick off the line of scrimmage and he can rapidly regain speed after he breaks off his route.
Thomas has the size to break down defensive backs while also having the athleticism to blow by linebackers. He’s not a super athlete like David Njoku, Travis Kelce or Rob Gronkowski, but he has enough speed and quickness to get the job done.
One thing that sets him apart from most of the tight ends in this draft class is his ability to play inline as a blocker and be flexed outside as a wide receiver. His versatility could help him get on the field sooner than expected.
It’s good to have all the tools, but it’s even better to effectively use those tools. With that being said, Thomas has the athleticism to compete but needs to develop the fundamentals to take his game to the next level. Currently, his route tree is very basic, and he needs to add some diversity to his repertoire in order for him to be a key contributor to the Panthers offense.
His college production doesn’t leave much optimism. He only caught 28 passes during his collegiate career and he’s starting his rookie season at the ripe old age or 22. With limited production at the college level, it’s hard to be 100 percent certain that his skill set will quickly translate to the NFL.
Greg Olsen will still be the team’s starting tight end again this year, but Thomas should get the chance to cut his teeth in two tight end sets. Olsen’s will be a 35-year-old free agent in 2020 and his potential departure could be Thomas’ opportunity to shine. A lot can happen in two years and it’s hard to exactly bank on Olsen leaving and Thomas developing into the Panther’s starting tight end. If anything, he has a chance to be a solid TE2 for the team.
It’s going to take a few years for Thomas to develop and if he doesn’t improve at a quick enough pace, the Panthers could move on from him. Tight end is one of the hardest positions to learn and there’s a chance that he could never advance his game enough to provide consistent fantasy-relevant production. His biggest threat is becoming lost in the shuffle.
Thomas should get the chance to play in two tight end sets early in his career. Of course, Olsen is going to be the team’s main tight end for the next few years, but Thomas will get a chance to carve out a role in the offense. He should be slowly developing during his first couple years in the league.
I wouldn’t expect much out of him as a fantasy asset in the short-term. It usually takes longer for tight ends to develop into functional starters. Also, he’s going to contend with Olsen and Devin Funchess for a lot of the red zone targets.
Expect him to be a role player during the majority of his career. He doesn’t have enough gusto to usurp Olsen or any other big name tight end. Thomas will need to develop rapidly if he wants to become a key staple in the offensive game plan. He will serve better as a solid commodity for an NFL team than as a fantasy-relevant asset.
With all that being said, if he plays to his potential and develops, then he could be a diamond in the rough waiting to get discovered. I say this because he does have the intangibles to be a good receiver. Thomas is just a very raw prospect who needs to overhaul his game if he wants to be one of the better tight ends in the league. Players can get better and just because he’s raw now doesn’t mean he can’t become a stud later.
Thomas reminds me of a slower Martellus Bennett. Both were very raw coming out of college. Bennett needed a few extra years of development before he hit full stride. They may not fully compare athletically, but both players are very good at using their bodies to create separation from the opposing defenders and they both also have enough speed to stretch the seam.
PROJECTED RANGE FOR ROOKIE DRAFTS
He currently has a dynasty ADP of 45.20, making him a late fourth-round pick in rookie drafts. The quality of talent is starting to dissipate in this portion of the draft, and Thomas is a very good selection at the end of the fourth-round when there aren’t as many upside prospects to chose from. However, in this range, I would rather draft Justin Watson or even Josh Adams because both players present more upside in fantasy. We know Thomas is going to be a slow starter and we will get a second buying opportunity at a cheaper rate next year or the year after. It makes more sense to target prospects with higher ceilings now just in case they hit early in their careers.