Fantasy Football IDP: Earl Thomas, Don’t get ‘hooked’ by this Longhorn

Earl Thomas is a great NFL player, but not worth his price in IDP formats. (Photo via zimbio.com)

Earl Thomas is an absolutely fantastic football player. He may be the most valuable defensive player in the entire league not named J.J. He was an All-American at Texas, first round draft pick and has been named to the All-Pro team the last four years.

The craziest part of all of that is he has never missed a game in the NFL and is still only 25 years old. Earl Thomas is a priceless asset in the NFL; however, he is a useless one in fantasy football.

Yes, I used the word “useless.” Even if you disagree, I highly suggest you read the rest of this rather than hit the “x” on the top right.

Over the last 16 months I have seen Earl ranked, valued and selected as high as the #1 overall DB in both redraft and dynasty. Some people had the same thoughts as I do and thought Earl was an overrated fantasy DB; however, he was almost always considered top 20 in every DB rankings that I viewed. After his 2014 “down season” some have wised up.

The problem is this: 2014 wasn’t a down season for Earl, it was a normal statistical season for him. His IDP value has been entirely inflated by 9 weeks of his career. The first 9 weeks of the 2013 season, Earl Thomas was the most dominant player in IDP. He made J.J. Watt jealous. (For reference all the stat analysis will be using score settings of 1 point per solo tackle, 4 points per sack and 5 points per INT.  All stats provided by fftoday.com)

Thomas scored a ridiculous 10.9 PPG the first 9 weeks of the season. He was flat-out incredible. However, in weeks 10-17 he averaged only 4.6 points per week. What changed? The Seahawks defense was not running at full steam the first 9 weeks. Six starting defensive starters (Bennett, Avril, Wagner, Irvin, Sherman and Browner) and two very important subs (Malcolm Smith and Byron Maxwell) missed a combined 18 games in the first 9 weeks.

The Seahawks defense was not playing like they usually do, so Earl picked up the slack. He had 61 solos and 4 INT in those 9 games. Extrapolated over a full season, that’s 108 solos and 7-8 INTs. The problem is, in any other year Thomas has never surpassed 71 solos or 5 INTs.

What does this mean? It means those 9 weeks were a fluke. In his other 71 regular season starts, he has averaged only 6.15 fantasy points per game. In his 5 years in the league he has finished 33rd, 5th, 81st, 30th and 52nd in PPG for DBs that played 10 or more games. The year he finished 5th was 2013, obviously, when he was the #1 DB in PPG the first 9 games — and 124th the last 7.

The most popular piece of advice I hear about DBs in IDP leagues is do not draft elite shutdown corners. It is great advice since these star CBs do not give up enough catches so tackle opportunities are few and far between. However, even better advice is do not draft shut down corners AND ball-hawking centerfield free safeties like Earl Thomas for the exact same reason.

Over their entire careers, Richard Sherman (7.05 PPG), Darrelle Revis (6.9) and Joe Haden (6.65) have all out-produced Earl Thomas in FF. Jarius Byrd is also considered a centerfield FS and has averaged 7.05 PPG over his entire career.

So it is not just Earl that is the problem in IDP, it is the way he plays. Keep this in mind for future years when rangy FS rookies are drafted. You can easily find better DBs for IDP purposes on the waiver wire every single week, so as crazy as it sounds, this is why I consider Earl Thomas the most amazingly “useless” player in all of IDP.

Eric Breeze is an IDP fantasy football writer for FakePigskin.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Breeze121212. 

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