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Broncos' Julius Thomas a TD Machine

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Julius Thomas of the Denver Broncos has eight TD catches, which ties him with teammate Wes Welker for the NFL lead. Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Julius Thomas of the Denver Broncos has eight TD catches, which ties him with teammate Wes Welker for the NFL lead. Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Through seven weeks of the NFL season, Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas has already caught eight end TD passes, and is tied with teammate Wes Welker for most in the league. Where did this guy come from? Julius Thomas actually started his collegiate sports career as a basketball player. He was drafted by the Broncos with the very last pick in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft. It is hard to imagine a physical specimen like this slipping so low in the draft, but for one reason or another, we see it happen all the time.

Thomas played four seasons for the Portland State basketball team before trying his hand at football. During his collegiate basketball career, Thomas set school records for games played (121), career wins (78), and career field-goal percentage (.663). He was twice named to the Big Sky All-Tournament team, and as a senior, he averaged 10.8 points and 5.9 rebounds and shot a school-record 67.1% from the floor.

Thomas didn’t start playing college football until 2010. It is safe to say the transition has worked out pretty nicely for Thomas, as he is now one of the best red-zone targets in the NFL. College basketball players becoming star tight ends in the NFL seems to have become somewhat of a recurring trend. (See: Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham and Jordan Cameron). I envision the day I see LeBron James run a seam route down the middle of the field, only to make a one-handed circus grab over three defenders for a TD. Maybe we will see it one day. Probably not, but a guy can dream, can’t he? (Just one season LeBron, C’mon!)

The 6-5, 250-pound Thomas has emerged as 25% of one of the best receiving corps in NFL history. Lining up alongside fellow studs Welker, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas makes for quite the fearsome foursome. The Broncos are coming off their first loss of the season, but it is hard to remember a team ever being more impressive in the passing game. This high-flying offense is a thing of beauty, and the amount of weapons at Peyton Manning’s disposal is enough to make any defense look like Swiss cheese. The scoring potential of this offense is what makes this team a front-runner for the Lombardi Trophy, despite now being in second place in their own division to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.

Thomas is right in the middle of all of this, and just when you think you have all those receivers covered, the Gates clone drags across the front of the defense and catches a 15-yarder for a score. I expect he is swamped with fan mail from his fantasy owners, who are all thanking him for his eight TDs in seven games. A fantasy gem -- and an integral part of the best offense in football -- Julius Thomas is the real deal.