After two injury laden and disappointing years in Jacksonville with the always-enigmatic Blake Bortles, Julius Thomas is headed down Florida’s coast to South Beach.

Per various media reports, Jacksonville traded Thomas for Miami’s 2017 seventh round pick. Oddly, after rumors swirled the two teams were discussing an exclusive Thomas-for-Albert deal, Miami swapped LT Branden Albert for the Jags’ 2018 seventh rounder in a separate exchange.

Turning 29 in June and having missed 16 games due to various injuries over the past two years, Thomas is trying to re-start his career in Miami with former Broncos’ OC Adam Gase. There is no question Thomas’ two best seasons came in Denver. However, there is question as to who deserves credit for Julius Thomas’ initial breakout. You may have heard about this quarterback named Peyton Manning.

When he was healthy, Thomas was a touchdown machine with Peyton Manning at the controls in Denver. Thomas wrecked opposing linebacking/safety corps for 24 touchdowns in 27 contests (0.88 per game) with Manning – which is a scoring rate usually reserved for Rob Gronkowski alone (0.77 TDs/game in his career).

The last two years have been a little different.

Thomas is still a red-zone threat, but he scored just nine touchdowns in 21 games with Blake Bortles, compared to 24 touchdowns in 27 games in Denver. With Blake Bortles, Julius Thomas scored nine touchdowns in 21 games (0.43 per contest) and was woefully ineffective for the majority of his tenure in Duval County. Efficiency metrics are tricky to predict, but it’s worth noting Thomas gained a near league-average 1.34 receiving yards per route run while in Denver with Manning. Thomas gained 1.03 yards per route in Jacksonville, which is in the bottom-5 in that particular metric for tight ends. Blake Bortles’ own issues certainly had something to do with Thomas’ lack of production.

However, Thomas is on to a new team. Let’s take a quick peek at Thomas’ open opportunity in Miami.

Swimming With Dolphins

Here’s how often Ryan Tannehill has targeted his most utilized tight end throughout the past five years and their subsequent PPR points per game finish:

Year

Name

Targets

Tgt Share

Inside-10 Red-zone Tgt Share

Percentage of Yards

PPR Finish

2012

Anthony Fasano

69

14%

43%

10%

TE32

2013

Charles Clay

102

18%

31%

19%

TE12

2014

Charles Clay

84

14%

32%

15%

TE13

2015

Jordan Cameron

70

12%

6%

9%

TE36

2016

Dion Sims

35

7%

30%

9%

TE36

 

Average

72

13.0%

28.4%

12.4%

TE26

 

Outside of a pair of TE12 and TE13 finishes from Charles Clay in 2013-14, the Dolphins’ tight ends haven’t necessarily been a huge part of Ryan Tannehill’s passing attack. Just 12.4% of Tannehill’s passing yards while under center have come from tight ends alone. For reference, too, 19 different tight ends saw at least 13% of their teams’ targets in 2016. As far as volume goes, Thomas is stepping into a pretty average role.

While Thomas probably won’t own a massive target share and rack up a ton of yardage with the ‘Fins, Ryan Tannehill does enjoy throwing to his tight ends when Miami is within 10 yards of the goal-line (red-zone). If you drop Jordan Cameron’s abysmally low target rate inside of the opponents’ 10-yard line in 2015, Tannehill targeted Anthony Fasano, Charles Clay, and Dion Sims on 34% of his pass attempts in 2012-14 and 2016.

Just last year, Dion Sims’ 30% target share inside of the 10-yard line was just behind Doug Baldwin (31%) for the 12th-highest rate in the league. That’s a strong clip.

Thomas is going to be risky in 2017 drafts, but at least fantasy owners won’t have to pay near the cost for Thomas’ downside in 2017. He will go well under his seventh- (2015) and ninth-round (2016) average draft position from the prior two seasons. At a shallow position, Thomas has late-round appeal in MFL10s for his ability to score in the paint – but his downside risk will have to be insulated.