Sleeper Files: Ian Thomas
By Tommy Harvey
In 2018, Ian Thomas filled in for injured Greg Olsen and looked like a potential future TE1 for fantasy football players. The Carolina rookie finished that season with 36 receptions, 333 yards, and 2 TDs. The majority of those numbers came during the final five games (25 receptions, 246 yards, and 2 TDs).
Fast-forward to 2019...Greg Olsen was back as the Panther’s starting TE, and Thomas was back to being a back-up. His targets regressed from 49 in 2018 to 30 and he became a fantasy afterthought.
Now, headed into the 2020 season, Ian Thomas is the starter and Carolina is ushering in a new head coach (Ron Rivera), new offensive coordinator (Joe Brady), and new offensive scheme. Joe Brady comes in, fresh off a national championship at LSU and he brings his RPO philosophy with him. That same philosophy rocketed QB Joe Burrow to the Heisman Trophy and the number 1 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft.
That’s not all that is new in Carolina, as QB Cam Newton has moved on to New England and Teddy Bridgewater was brought in from New Orleans. Bridgewater has several dangerous weapons to be a highly effective QB, but you’ll have to read Matt Kelley’s article on him.
Greg Olsen signed with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent in the offseason, and took 82 targets from last season with him. Not all 82 targets will go Ian Thomas’ way, but he should see a good chunk of them.
2020 Prediction and Fantasy Outlook:
50 receptions, 490 yards, and 5 TDs
Part of my prediction for Thomas is his targets will increase from 30 to the 75 range. If you go back and watch how Thaddeus Moss was used at LSU in 2019, Joe Brady likes to get his TE involved. That is nothing new in Carolina, as Greg Olsen had a possible Hall of Fame career for the Panthers.
Ian Thomas is currently being drafted as the overall TE22 on average, which is backend TE2 territory. I see him finishing as the overall TE12 and backend TE1.