With Greg Olsen out in Carolina, Ian Thomas is draftable as a low-end tight end in the double-digit rounds. Thomas didn't show much in 2019, but the final five games of his rookie year gave us a glimpse of what he could be. He caught 25 of 32 targets for 246 yards and two touchdowns. We don't fully know what the Panthers offense will look like, but Thomas has the pedigree and athleticism to deliver top-10 results if he gets enough targets. Thomas should be targeted shortly after the tier including Jonnu Smith, O.J. Howard and Blake Jarwin.
Thomas is expected to replace Greg Olsen as the Panthers' starting tight end, ESPN.com's David Newton reports. The 2018 fourth-round pick already has seen plenty of playing time in the NFL, thanks in no small part to Olsen's late-career health struggles. Thomas has had his own struggles with drops (three each season) and blocking, but he's an excellent athlete -- 4.74 40-yard dash, 36-inch vertical at 259 pounds -- who will be just 24 years old for the entire 2020 campaign. He's also shown glimpses of fantasy production in his 10 career games with two-thirds or more of offensive snaps, averaging 4.0 catches for 39.4 yards and 0.3 touchdowns (9.7 PPR points) on 5.9 targets. The Panthers may bring in a draft pick and/or veteran to compete for snaps, but Thomas should at least have some chance to secure a three-down role. Meanwhile, Olsen is expected to visit with Buffalo, Washington and Seattle in the coming weeks.
Thomas, who caught one pass for 12 yards in Sunday's 42-10 loss to the Saints, finishes up the 2019 season with 16 receptions (on 30 targets) for 136 yards and a touchdown in 16 games played. Thomas saw his role expand last year after Greg Olsen went down early in the season, but he took a back seat to the veteran in 2019. That situation resulted in noticeable declines from Thomas' 36/333/2 line, but with a handful of drops as well, he didn't help his case much either. On the bright side, with Olsen unlikely to be back with the Panthers in 2020, Thomas could have the tight end position to himself. Such a scenario would boost his fantasy upside, but along with his on-field development, Carolina's head coach and quarterback situation could play large factors in his outlook.
Thomas (ankle) was a full participant in Thursday's practice, Steve Reed of the Associated Press reports. Thomas was limited in practice to begin the week, but he now appears to have put his ankle issue behind him. With Greg Olsen (knee) also expected to suit up for Sunday's regular-season finale against the Saints, Thomas is on track to split reps at the tight end position once again Week 17.
Thomas was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday's estimated practice report due to an ankle injury, Alaina Getzenberg of The Charlotte Observer reports. Just like Thomas, Greg Olsen (knee) also drew a "limited" tag, but both of Carolina's top tight ends are expected to be ready to go for Sunday's game against the Saints. After starting in place of a concussed Olsen in Weeks 14 and 15, Thomas predictably saw his role decline in last weekend's loss to the Colts while Olsen returned to action. Thomas played only 46 percent of the Panthers' offensive snaps in the blowout, finishing with three catches for 16 yards on three targets.
Thomas caught all three of his targets for 16 yards in Sunday's 38-6 loss to the Colts. Thomas wasn't as big of a factor with starting tight end Greg Olsen returning to the lineup but at least hauled in all of his looks from rookie quarterback Will Grier. That actually saw Thomas top Olsen's two catches, but the veteran managed 33 yards from his five targets.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|1||09/13||Las Vegas Raiders||30||8.75|
|2||09/20||@Tampa Bay Buccaneers||23||7.63|
|3||09/27||@Los Angeles Chargers||11||6.25|
|7||10/25||@New Orleans Saints||8||6.12|
|9||11/08||@Kansas City Chiefs||21||7.32|
|10||11/15||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||23||7.63|
|15||12/20||@Green Bay Packers||14||6.78|
|16||12/27||@Washington Football Team||27||8.38|
|17||01/03||New Orleans Saints||8||6.12|
|3 Year Avg||40||26||234||2||15||9.00||35|