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Ian Thomas - Rookie Recap / Dynasty Outlook

Here at RotoBaller, we're looking back at the fantasy production and future outlook of some of the league's under-the-radar rookies and discussing their future in dynasty leagues. Today, I'm looking at Carolina Panthers tight end Ian Thomas.

Thomas was not supposed to play much as a rookie but foot and ankle injuries to veteran Greg Olsen thrust Thomas into the lineup early on. He did close to nothing at first but late in the season he suddenly came on to capture our attention.

Let's take a look at some of Thomas' numbers from his rookie year, at how the other options in Carolina could affect his role next year, and at what we can expect from him in terms of fantasy production moving forward.

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Team: Carolina Panthers
College: Indiana
Height/Weight: 6'4" 259 pounds
2018 NFL Draft: Round 4 - Pick 101


Heir to the Position

With their second pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers' selected former Indiana Hoosier, Ian Thomas, the potential heir to their veteran tight end Greg Olsen. Of the 14 rookie tight ends selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, Thomas was selected by the Carolina Panthers as the sixth tight end off the board. In a rookie class with several potential mismatch tight ends available, Thomas is no exception. At 6'4" 260 pounds, he offers impressive agility and speed for someone of his size, and is close to Olsen who is 6'5" 255 pounds.

When it comes to veteran tight ends in the NFL, Greg Olsen is one of the first names that come to mind. Olsen has dealt with his share of injuries over the last few years, and it's not too surprising. It's been a long time since the Chicago Bears drafted the rookie in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He'll be 34 in March and has already made it clear that he plans on returning for the 2019 NFL season. As long as he's healthy and in Carolina, Thomas will have to wait.


Rookie Campaign

Landing in Carolina behind a veteran like Olsen is a good thing for a rookie tight end, but not so much for fantasy purposes. Thomas has a nice set of skills and has the size and athleticism to succeed in the NFL. Olsen is one of the best role models a young tight end could ask for and landing in Carolina should be a good thing for Thomas in the long run.

Dynasty owners expected to have to wait some time for Thomas to become very useful, but with the injuries as of late and uncertainty around how much time he has left in the NFL, he could be relevant sooner than later. We saw this on display in full force when Olsen went down early on with a foot injury, and Thomas immediately became a popular name on the waiver wire in Redraft leagues.

Despite playing in nine games in 2018, Olsen finished as the TE24 in PPR scoring. Thomas finished as the TE30. Olsen was injured in Week 1 against Dallas and came back for Weeks 5-12. He re-injured his foot in Week 12 against the Buccaneers and was sidelined for the remainder of the year.

Thomas played in all 16 games in 2018 and was involved for the Panthers even when Olsen was active. Thomas also had six games with zero targets and one game with just one target, which happened during the time that Olsen was active. Surprisingly enough, Thomas did finish the season with more yards, receptions, and targets than Olsen did, but the touchdowns were the difference maker for fantasy production.


The Future

For 2019, Thomas shouldn't be on the radar for redraft leagues as Olsen will be returning. It will take an injury, retirement, or a major offensive scheme change for Thomas to become relevant next year. Dynasty owners, on the other hand, don't be afraid to make some low-ball offers for Thomas.

Most owners are probably well aware of the situation and the time it will take for Thomas to become fantasy relevant, so it may be tough to buy him at the right price. We know that Carolina and Cam Newton love to utilize the tight end position, so I'm still confident about Thomas and his long-term value moving forward.

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