Julius Thomas: An even bigger red-zone threat in 2014

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Tight end Julius Thomas finished a distant fourth in Dave Richard's Twitter survey.

The question was, Which Bronco will you draft first in Fantasy football? Demaryius Thomas ran away with it at 46 percent, followed by Peyton Manning (26 percent), Montee Ball (22 percent) and Julius Thomas (6 percent). That wasn't a knock on Julius Thomas, just a snapshot of where he stands in the Broncos' Fantasy hierarchy.

Julius Thomas went undrafted in many leagues last year only to finish as the No. 3 Fantasy tight end. The 6-5, 250-pound Portland State product caught 12 touchdown passes despite missing two regular-season games.

What can we expect in 2014? Bigger things. Thomas drew 17 red-zone targets last year, tied for sixth among TEs. Look for that number to rise.

Eric Decker, the 6-3, 217-pound red-zone magnet, is gone. His 23 red-zone targets, which tied for second in the NFL, have to go somewhere. They're not all going to Decker's replacement, 5-foot-11 Emmanuel Sanders. Wes Welker can't see any more than the 23 red-zone looks he got last year.

So Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas (19 red-zone targets) should be the main beneficiaries. They've got the size, and they've got Manning's trust. Julius Thomas caught 14 of those 17 targets last year for 112 yards and eight touchdowns. He makes them count.

Of course, Denver might not need to score as much thanks to defensive upgrades. But Julius Thomas remains an excellent bet for double-digit touchdowns. Richard and Jamey Eisenberg rank him No. 2 among tight ends, with Nathan Zegura placing him third.

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