Pop Quiz: How bad of a blocker is Julius Thomas?
- Julius Thomas is a terrible blocker
- Julius Thomas is the worst blocker in the NFL
- Julius Thomas is the worst blocker in NFL history
Ask a Broncos fan these days, and it seems those are the only three options. There's no room for nuance. It doesn't matter whether he improved from 2013 to 2014, and apparently, it doesn't actually matter how well other receiving tight ends fare in blocking. Everyone's suddenly an expert on tight end blocking skills, and JULIUS THOMAS IS THE WORSTEST.
See, Thomas appears to be on his way to a different NFL city, so he's a completely overrated player, so the story goes.
No, Thomas hasn't been terrific as a run blocker. According to PFF, he graded out at minus-4.7 while run blocking in 2014.
But here's the thing: his overall blocking numbers are actually pretty decent, because he graded out at plus-4.0 on screens and plus-1.2 in pass protection. His overall blocking grade was plus-0.5 including postseason, and it's worth noting that he was asked to block on 48.5% of his snaps.
Here's a news flash for those who suddenly think run blocking is the most important trait for a receiving tight end: most receiving tight ends aren't very good blockers.
Before we all fall in love with Denver's next tight end, let's see how Julius ranked in overall blocking among some of the league's more prolific receiving tight ends in 2014.
Here's how to read the table below. 32 tight ends were targeted at least 40 times during the 2014 season. PFF breaks down blocking into three categories: run blocking, screen blocking, and pass blocking. Screen blocking and run blocking get rolled into one Run Block category on their tables, so that's why Julius is listed at minus-0.7 rather than minus-4.7.
I've added the last three columns to show how often these 32 tight ends were asked to block, whether for pass pro or in the run. I think this is useful, because it shows how each player was used within his offense. Block % is blocking snaps divided by total snaps, and Rank is each player's standing among the 32 players in terms of how often they were asked to block.
Tight Ends with 40 or more Targets in 2014, Ranked by Overall Blocking Grade
|#||Name||Team||Snaps||Pass Block||Run Block||All Block||TA||Rec.||Yds||TD||Block Snaps||Block %||Rank|
Obviously, the most important takeaway here is that Julius Thomas tied for 15th among the 32 receiving tight ends for overall blocking grade. This does not match the theory that he's a terrible blocker. Yes, his run blocking left a lot to be desired, but there were several players with far worse grades there.
Feel free to dispute how PFF grades, while claiming to be a better football evaluator than those hacks at PFF. However, be prepared to check the film on every play for all 32 of these receiving tight ends, and get back to us when you're done with that, which should be roughly 11 years and four months from now.
Only 11 of the other 31 tight ends were asked to block more often than Thomas was. This is important context, for wherever Julius ends up, and who replaces him in Denver.
Owen Daniels graded out worse than Julius; his split was minus-1.2 pass blocking, plus-0.5 screen blocking, and minus-4.1 run blocking. Something tells me that when Daniels replaces Julius on the Denver roster, we're going to hear all about how much better of a blocker the new guy is. At least as far as PFF is concerned, that's not remotely true.
Jordan Cameron has been discussed as another possible replacement for Thomas; his season was shortened by injury in 2014, but when he did play, he was an atrocious blocker. He's been injury prone throughout his career and is a far worse blocker than Julius. Again, it will be interesting to see how he's portrayed in Broncos Country, should he replace Julius Thomas.
We'll be back later in the week with a discussion of Julius's receiving stats. But for now, chew on PFF's blocking grades for a while.