Breaking into the NFL can be a tough task for young players.
For starters, the players they go up against are bigger, stronger, and faster than anything they’ve ever seen before. Also, most players face some kind of stigma from critics and scouts. It could be a questionable skill set, a history of injuries, the fact that they didn’t face high-level competition while in college, or any number of other things. Whatever it may be, almost every new player trying to break into the league has a hurdle to get over in order to make it in the NFL.
Despite being a first round draft pick in 2010, Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is familiar with the stigmas that face young players in the NFL. After playing the final three seasons of his college career at Georgia Tech in a run-heavy triple-option offense, Thomas was seen by critics as being inexperienced as a route runner and being unfamiliar with a traditional pro-style offense, two things that would keep him from becoming an impactful wide receiver in the NFL. Despite having great physical abilities and receiving all-conference honors his final year in college, Thomas entered the league with the stigma that he was more suited for blocking than catching, and was a long way away from being a consistent contributor to any NFL offense.
Overcoming those perceptions hasn’t been the easiest task for Thomas. As a rookie in 2010, injuries limited him to 10 games, during which he compiled a modest 283 yards receiving and just two touchdowns. Even when he showed noticeable improvement in his second professional season, there were still critics because Thomas and Denver’s late-season success came with Tim Tebow playing quarterback and running a more unconventional offense. As a result, many wrote off Thomas’ success as a bi-product of Denver using a run-based option offense that was similar to the offense Thomas was a part of at Georgia Tech, and therefore better suited to his ability as a run blocker on the outside while also being able to hide his unpolished skills as a route runner.
Now, nearly three full seasons into his NFL career, Thomas is finally starting to shut some of his critics up, as he puts together the best season of his career catching passes from one of the NFL’s all-time quarterbacks and all-time perfectionists: Peyton Manning. Manning is arguably the most demanding quarterback in the history of the league when it comes to the personnel around him, and he doesn’t throw to receivers if he doesn’t have faith in their ability to be in the proper place at the proper time. Thomas has worked hard alongside Manning all year and has risen to the challenge that his quarterback has put in front of him. As a result, Thomas has become Denver’s most productive receiver and it’s most dangerous big-play option in the passing game.
Thus far in the season, Thomas has 74 catches for 1,197 yards and eight touchdowns. Thomas is fourth in the NFL in receiving yards and second in the league in catches of 20 yards or more. He is not only overcoming the stigmas he faced when he entered the league, but he is also becoming a pro-bowl caliber wide receiver and one of the best at his position anywhere in the league.