By Rich Kurtzman
Player Name: Demaryius Thomas, No. 88
Weight: 229 pounds
Hometown: Montrose, Georgia
College: Georgia Tech
Experience: 3 years
When the Broncos brass took “Bay Bay” Thomas with the 22nd overall pick in the 2010 draft, many wondered what they were thinking. Dez Bryant was still on the board and Demaryius Thomas grew up in the triple-option offense. That’s not to say he was a chump at Georgia Tech, he certainly wasn’t, but Bryant looked like the much better option.
Thomas did make As a redshirt freshman, Thomas’ 35 receptions for 558 yards led the team far and away. The next year he improved, but 2009 was his breakout college season. DT earned All-ACC honors for his 46 receptions and 1,159 yards with eight TDs. They were great numbers, but they came on very basic routes many times. The triple-option offense is what Air Force also runs, it’s much different than the traditional or even more advanced spread offenses in the NFL today.
Thomas struggled, sometimes more visibly than others, over his first two seasons. His debut game was beautiful; an eight-catch, 97-yard effort with a touchdown. But then he missed six games that season with multiple different lower leg injuries. He never really caught on with Kyle Orton, and looked lost trying to run routes.
In 2011, he tore his Achilles tendon in the offseason while working out, a quite disconcerting injury for a receiver that makes his living off running at blazing speed. Thomas battled back from injury and tried his best to work with not only Orton but Tim Tebow as well. It was a huge change in the offense when Tebow took over, moving to run-first. And when Tebow did throw, it was Eric Decker on the opposite end most of the time. He did enjoy a career year of 32 catches for 551 yards and four scores—including that amazing 80-yard touchdown to beat the Steelers in the playoffs—but that was nothing compared to the year he’s having with Peyton Manning.
Manning has said repeatedly that he’s never had a receiver with the physical attributes of Thomas, who stands at 6’3” and 230 pounds, and Manning’s taken advantage of him. It’s not just that Thomas is a massive target, he uses blinding speed to go down the field past defenders for huge passing plays when the veteran quarterback drops passes into his hands with precision. And if the third-year receiver runs short routes, he is physical enough to turn the ball up field, punishing would-be tacklers on his way to gaining tough yards. Thomas is tremendous; he’s gone from a raw freak of nature to one of the best wideouts in all of football, running much more crisp routes and learning quickly what Manning demands out of him.
It’s resulted in a breakout NFL season this year—ironically his third season, just like in college—and Bay Bay may go over 1,000 yards and 100 receptions for the first time all with Manning as the man throwing him the pigskin. Thomas is at 1,312 yards already, on 87 receptions, good for a 15.1 yards per catch average. He’s also scored a career-high nine times, catching the ball in the end zone on deep routes, crossing patterns and fade routes alike.
But what’s so exciting and amazing about Demaryius Thomas is that he’ll only improve from here, and could one day be the best receiver in all of NFL football.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.