Julius Thomas, anyone heard of him?
Of course you have, when offseason team activities started this year, the media at press conferences couldn't stop asking about him. It was almost as if they were told to by the Denver Broncos public relations staff. John Fox, Peyton Manning, Champ Bailey and even Jack Del Rio all fielded questions on Julius Thomas.
It's almost as if we forgot about Thomas's draft classmate Virgil Green.
Green, like Thomas entered the league in 2011 as part of the Foxway premiere draft class. Yet, the only time Green has blipped on a national radar was prior to the 2012 season when the NFL backhanded him with a four game suspension for testing positive for AD/HD medication that he not had been previously approved by the league.
Thomas has had a different path than Green in the NFL, Thomas has spent most of his time in the league in physical rehab. Green came into the rotation strong towards the tail end of last season. He was even used in a very Aaron Hernandez esque H-back position. For a player who was scouted out of the combine as having, 'Struggles as a blocker,' he was certainly trusted as last man standing between a defense and the most valuable quarterback in the league. That alone speaks to the level of improvement Green has made in the last two seasons.
Maybe it's that Green as the 204th overall pick is not as sexy to talk about as Thomas who was 129th. Two things that give Green a definite advantage is his in game experience and his practice reps. One thing that could make him expendable is his seventh round pay check and only costing about $34,000 in dead money.
Denver currently employs five tight ends: Green, Thomas, Joel Dreessen, Jacob Tamme and rookie Lucas Reed. The Broncos are assumed to keep four of those names and neither Green nor Thomas have practice squad eligibility. Dreessen missed the entire offseason program after a minor surgery, but should be ready in a few weeks for training camp. It was Thomas, not Green who saw the benefits of Dreessen's absence in mini camp this year-- which to me says that the team is evaluating Thomas's progress, not Green's.
Green has established his place in the offense, as a utility tight end who is good for a first down every time he touches the ball. If Denver chooses not to employ a fullback this season, he is that for them too. As the preseason comes to a close you will likely observe Green mostly paving the way for the Broncos return to a top rushing offense. However, keep an eye on when the third year tight end gets an opportunity with the ball. He's bound to become a favorite spot to look on the field for a young quarterback.