Late Round Rookie Steal: Ian Thomas

In this series, I’ll be taking a look at several rookies with an average draft position (ADP) in the 4th round or later in rookie drafts based on the multiple real-life and mocks drafts I’ve been in this off-season. I’ll do my best to break down why I believe they’re a tremendous value at their current ADPs and why they’ll have an opportunity to outperform players drafted ahead of them.


In case you missed it, during the most recent NFL off-season, Panther’s star tight end Greg Olsen was entertaining retirement if he got hired as an analyst with Monday Night Football. Olsen ended up returning to Carolina on a two-year extension, but there is no doubt the 33-year old is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. So who is the heir to the throne of one of the more productive tight end roles in fantasy football? As of this writing, it sure looks like the answer is rookie tight end Ian Thomas.

If you’re not familiar with Thomas, here’s a look at his combine performance:


Taking a look at Thomas’ playerprofiler and mockdraftable profiles show an athlete who is above average athletically and good at everything, albeit, not exceptional in any one area. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as many rookie tight ends have a few holes in their game coming into the league. One of his few shortcomings is that he ran a limited route tree in college, but aside from that, many of his weaknesses per his NFL Draft and Combine Profile are related to his blocking. For fantasy football, that’s a fine weakness to have since you’re not accumulating fantasy points for blocking. It may limit his snaps as a rookie, but long-term, his shortcomings will be coached up, and it shouldn’t hinder him for fantasy.

Highlight reels often leave a lot to the imagination and don’t tell the whole story on a player. Coming out of Indiana, Thomas might have been easily overlooked by many, so here’s a little taste of his skillset:

Going back to 2013, the Panthers have been in the top six teams targeting the tight end. Even last year, with Olsen injured and Ed Dickson filling in, they remained in the top-10 of teams targeting the position. If Thomas can gain Cam Newton’s trust, he’s a legitimate threat to be a perennial TE1 candidate for years to come after Olsen moves on. Tight ends are seldom productive as rookies, so keep your expectations low for year one. However, few tight ends drafted ahead of Thomas have both the upside and opportunity to be fantasy relevant by year two or three.

Thank you for reading. You can find me on Twitter @dibari22.


Chicagoan living in Las Vegas. Fantasy Football writer & Director of In-Season Analysis for Dynasty Football Factory, blogger for USFantasy and contributor to TheFakeHockey. Member FSWA.

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