Posts

Demaryius Thomas: Career Retrospective

Demaryius Thomas announced his retirement from football after 10 seasons this Monday in a video statement released by the Denver Broncos.

The Broncos’ first-round pick in 2010, Thomas has the second-most receiving yards (9,055) and touchdown catches (60) in franchise history and was a key member of Denver’s 2016 Super Bowl roster. Let’s take a look back at his legendary career.

2010 NFL Draft

NEW YORK - APRIL 22:  Demaryius Thomas from the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as they hold up a Denver Broncos jersey after Thomas was drafted by the Broncos number 22 overall during the the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 22, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Demaryius Thomas;Roger Goodell Photo: Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images / 2010 Getty Images
Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images

The Broncos selected Thomas No. 22 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft as the first receiver off the board. Denver took a risk by passing on the more experienced Dez Bryant — Thomas was not a major part of the offense at Georgia Tech and never recorded more than 50 receptions in a season. It’s safe to say that risk paid off.

Early Career: 2010-2011

Demaryius Thomas

Demaryius Thomas’ inexperience limited him early on and kept him from a starting role in his first two seasons. He had only 22 catches for 283 yards as a rookie. He got more playing time in 2011 but struggled with consistency: he was targeted 70 times but only caught 32 passes. The Broncos offense as a whole was stagnant with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow behind center, but that would soon change.

The Peyton Manning Years: 2012-2016

Denver Broncos news: Peyton Manning works out with Demaryius Thomas

When the Broncos signed Peyton Manning before the 2012 season, they formed one of the most productive quarterback-receiver duos in the league. Thomas put up 1,434 receiving yards in their first year together and made his first of three consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl.

In 2013, their chemistry helped produce one of the most prolific offensive season in NFL history. The Broncos as a whole totaled 7,317 yards, the second-most ever. Manning broke the records for passing yards and touchdown passes in a single season, and Thomas led the team with 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns. It all culminated in a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII. The Broncos came up short against Seattle’s ‘Legion of Boom’ defense, but Thomas set a Super Bowl record with 13 receptions.

Thomas cemented his status as one of the league’s top playmakers with a career-high 1,619 yards in 2014, a franchise record. Denver, though, did not return to the Super Bowl until the 2015 season. Though Thomas was largely a nonfactor in those playoffs, he earned his first and only championship ring in a 24-10 defeat of the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

End of Career: 2016-2020

Texans WR Demaryius Thomas wants to keep playing
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Thomas was never quite the same after Manning’s retirement. 2016 was his fifth consecutive and final 1,000-yard season, He was traded to the Houston Texans for a fourth-round pick at the 2018 trade deadline, ending his days as a No. 1 receiver. The Texans released him after that season. He then signed with the Patriots, who traded him to the Jets before the season even began for a sixth-round pick. He found some success in New York, starting 10 games, but was third on the depth chart. The Jets released him and he sat out 2020 as an unsigned free agent.

Top 100 NFL Players of 2021: 80-71

Throughout the offseason, Baseline Times will be ranking the top 100 NFL players for the 2021 season.

Every Thursday night, 10 players will be released with a short discussion about what separates them from the rest of the pack. Rankings are based on both past performance and projections for next year.

Previous Top 100 NFL players:

80. Harrison Smith, S, Vikings

No team has done a better job in the past decade of keeping their defense intact than the Vikings, and Smith is their longest-tenured player. Though he was never truly game-changing, few active players have played at a high level for as long. Last year was his first Pro Bowl snub in six years, but he was just as impressive as always and shows no signs of slipping off.

79. Roquan Smith, LB, Bears

A bruising linebacker very much in line with the Chicago tradition, Smith broke out as a do-it-all player in his third season. He led the league with 18 tackles for loss and ranked second with 98 solo tackles. He was also the first Bear to rank top 10 in the league in tackles since Brian Urlacher.

Chicago’s defense was merely average last year despite tons of talent, but Smith was not part of the problem. He should have been an All-Pro, and likely will be this season.

78. Danielle Hunter, DE, Vikings

Once the unquestioned leader of Minnesota’s pass rush, Hunter missed all of last season with a neck injury. He racked up 29 sacks in the two years before that, earning Pro Bowl honors both times, and will rank much higher on this list next year if he proves he can return to form.

77. Amari Cooper, WR, Cowboys

Amari Cooper has made four trips to the Pro Bowl in six NFL seasons. (Ron Jenkins/Associated Press)

It’s almost impossible for a wide receiver to live up to being the No. 4 overall pick, but Cooper has come pretty darn close. In two and a half seasons with Dallas he has scored 19 touchdowns and become Dak Prescott‘s favorite target.

His stats are not exactly eye-popping — he has yet to top 1,200 yards in a season — but he has the ability to make contested catches and make defenders miss in the open field.

76. Chandler Jones, DE, Cardinals

Chandler Jones has always been in someone else’s shadow. He never got the respect that contemporaries like J.J. Watt and Von Miller did, but statistically he is almost as impressive. Once those players saw a dip in production, his 19-sack 2019 season was obscured by Stephon Gilmore‘s Defensive Player of the Year Award.

But since entering the league in 2012, no one has more than Jones’ 97 sacks — even though he missed most of last year with an arm injury. He and Watt may not produce gaudy numbers together in Arizona, but it is going to be pleasure to watch them both try and cement their cases for the Hall of Fame.

75. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Ravens

Humphrey is one of only a few cornerbacks left who can truly match up with any receiver. Since 2018, he has earned a grade of 90.0 from Pro Football Focus in single coverage, second only to Stephon Gilmore.

His play took a small step back last year but his physical brand of coverage still helped him force eight fumbles, the second-most ever by a defensive back. As he enters his fifth year, he is only going to better.

74. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seahawks

Metcalf was one of the hardest players to rank on this list. On the one hand, just look at him. His 229-pound frame instantly makes him one of the league’s best deep threats, as evidenced by his 10 touchdowns last year. On the other hand, he lacks the polish so far to get open against elite defenders — Jalen Ramsey held him to 87 yards combined in two games last year.

But he is still much more than just the freak athlete who chased down Arizona’s Budda Baker. He is already the best wideout Russell Wilson has ever played with. If he can improve his quickness and route-running, he has the potential to be the best in the NFL.

73. Demario Davis, LB, Saints

Demario Davis produced 119 tackles last year and remains one of the league’s most disruptive players. (Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press)

The 32-year-old Davis still possesses the physicality of a player five years younger and was on the field for nearly every defensive snap in New Orleans last year. Now entering his tenth season, Davis stands out even on a defense filled with veteran leaders. His energizing prescience will be invaluable as the franchise tries to find its footing without Drew Brees.

72. Aaron Jones, RB, Packers

It’s easy to dismiss Jones’ 25 touchdowns over the past two years as a product of playing on the Packers. Reaching the end zone is not too hard when Davante Adams can make a 50-yard play on a whim.

But Jones is the rare workhorse back who also makes every rush count. He averaged 5.5 yards per attempt last year, second best in the league and almost unprecedented for a fifth-round pick.

With excellent vision, Jones weaves through gaps with ease and patience. It appears that he lacks explosiveness, but avoiding sharp cuts helps him maintain his speed and always gives him a chance at a big play.

71. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers

Is Keenan Allen the most underappreciated player in football? The sure-handed Chargers wideout made his fourth-straight Pro Bowl last year and was eight yards away from his fifth 1,000-yard season, but is rarely mentioned with the league’s best. He unsurprisingly emerged as Justin Herbert‘s favorite target and will be invaluable while Herbert grows more comfortable in the pocket.

Top 100 NFL Players of 2021: 100-91

Throughout the offseason, Baseline Times will be ranking the top 100 NFL players for the 2021 season.

Every Thursday night, 10 players will be released with a short discussion about what separates them from the rest of the pack. Rankings are based on both past performance and projections for next year.

100. Brian Burns, DE, Carolina Panthers

First-round edge rushers typically take a few years to reach their potential, and Burns’ sophomore stat line suggests that he is in for a big 2021. With ten sacks and three forced fumbles in 14 starts, Burns quietly helped anchor a disappointing Carolina defense and will be a mainstay in a group that lacks an identity.

99. Ronnie Stanley, OT, Baltimore Ravens

Stanley had Pro Football Focus’s top pass-blocking grade when a Week 8 injury ended his season, and led all tackles in the stat in 2019. Lamar Jackson‘s mobility certainly helps in that area, but Stanley has proven more than capable of matching up with T.J. Watt and Myles Garrett twice a year. He has the tools to be truly elite, but will need to be on the field for more snaps before he enters that conversation.

98. Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos

After missing all of last year with an ankle injury, no one knows if Miller is still the perennial All-Pro that dictated opponents’ game plans. He was a shadow of his former self in 2019 when he posted career-lows in sacks (8) and quarterback hits (20). This year he might be upstaged by rising star Bradley Chubb. Still, the former Super Bowl MVP’s experience should help him finish within the top 100 NFL players.

97. Terron Armstead, OT, New Orleans Saints

Though a case of COVID-19 kept Armstead from starting all 16 games for the first time in his career, he has been a mainstay at left tackle in New Orleans for seven years. Last season, he reached his third-straight Pro Bowl, a level of consistency that will be invaluable as the Saints look for Drew Brees‘ successor.

96. Calais Campbell, DE, Baltimore Ravens

One of the most physically intimidating pass rushers of the last decade, the 300-pound Campbell is nearly 35 and looking to end his career with a Super Bowl ring. He was slightly disappointing last year with a career-low four sacks — three of which came in a monster performance against Philadelphia — but more than justified the fifth-round pick Baltimore traded away for him. There is no reason to believe Campbell won’t earn his fifth-straight Pro Bowl nod this year.

95. Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders

There are only two other tight ends on this list, both of whom will predictably rank much higher. But in a league obsessed with speedy wideouts, Waller made a name for himself in 2020 with nine touchdowns and nearly 1,196 yards. He essentially was the Raiders’ passing game, accounting for almost a quarter of the team’s total targets. That speaks more to the lack of talent in Las Vegas than to Waller’s ability, but he will still be all over highlight reels next year.

94. Richard Sherman, CB, Free Agent

Though a rumored reunion with the Seattle Seahawks is unlikely, Sherman will make an immediate impact wherever he ends up. His All-Pro days are behind him at age 33, but he remains perhaps one of the most intelligent corners in NFL history. Expect Sherman to emerge as a locker room leader on yet another Super Bowl contender before his Hall of Fame career is up.

93. John Johnson III, S, Cleveland Browns

Johnson had the league’s most unsung comeback story last year. After a horrific 2019 that ended in six games with a shoulder injury, Johnson played every defensive snap for the Browns in 2020. He allowed only 51 receptions, second-best among safeties. Despite lining up across from former No. 4 overall pick Denzel Ward, Johnson has emerged as the leader of Cleveland’s secondary and one of the top 100 NFL players.

92. Frank Ragnow, C, Detroit Lions

Ragnow is already the league’s highest-paid center. Now he needs to prove he’s worth $70 million. A second-team All-Pro in 2020, Ragnow did not allow any sacks and committed only three penalties. He will play alongside rookie Penei Sewell next year in what could suddenly be a top-caliber offensive line.

91. Devin White, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

On a defense loaded with famous faces, White was lost in the crowd after being drafted at No. 5 in 2019. But in the final minutes of Super Bowl LIV, he intercepted Patrick Mahomes in the end zone to cap a stunning postseason performance. White had 38 tackles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries in three playoff starts. If he can carry that momentum into 2021, All-Pro status will not be out of the question.