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Ian Thomas Grabs Early Lead Among Panthers TEs

By Matt Schauf | Updated on Mon, 24 Jun 2024, 9:31 AM EDT
Ian Thomas Headshot

ESPN's David Newton says Panthers TE Ian Thomas "has stolen the spotlight [this spring] at a position that is featured in Dave Canales' passing game." The Panthers ranked just 28th in total TE receptions last season (59), with Tommy Tremble's 23 catches leading the group -- and ranking just sixth on the team. Thomas managed only 5 receptions on 9 targets over 12 games after getting a contract extension last offseason. Thomas has 116 career receptions through six years with the Panthers. But the 49 targets and 36 catches of his rookie year remain career highs. He hasn't topped 31 targets, 21 receptions, or 197 yards in a season since.

What They're Saying

Newton: "Even Thomas admitted that he's looking more like Travis Kelce these days."

(OK, Ian. We've all looked in the mirror and overstated our reflection.)

2024 Fantasy Football Impact

It's interesting that Newton's report calls Canales' scheme TE-friendly and says the position is "featured." That clearly indicates the way Carolina operated in spring workouts. But it doesn't like up with Canales' 2023 Bucs.

His first season as an NFL OC found Tampa Bay TEs collecting the fourth-fewest receptions (55) and third-fewest yards (505) -- trailing Carolina in both categories.

Those Bucs obviously had WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to dominate receiving, plus a high-volume receiving RB (Rachaad White) and lackluster TE group. But even with minimal competition, lead Tampa TE Cade Otton ranked:

  • 21st at the position in targets (over 17 games)
  • tied for 20th in receptions
  • 21st in yards

It's hard to imagine Thomas becoming an impactful fantasy factor in 2024, even if he leads Panthers TEs.

Dynasty Impact

Thomas has had more than enough time to prove himself in fantasy. You can stash him in dynasty if you'd like, because it won't cost much (if anything). But don't get excited.

Other Winners & Losers

The greatest impact here should be pumping the brakes on excitement over rookie TE Ja'Tavion Sanders.

He carried some buzz into the NFL Draft after a strong final college season. But Sanders then lingered on the board until the beginning of Round 4. That obviously doesn't doom his outlook -- even in the short term. But it clearly makes him no lock to lead even a weak TE group right away.

It's probably best to just skip Panthers TEs on your best ball and redraft rosters.

Rankings Movement

We've had Thomas well down the TE rankings -- third among Panthers -- in the wake of his terrible 2023. Expect that to change. But also don't expect us to suddenly start recommending any Carolina TE as a draft target.

Projected ADP Movement

You can mix Sanders into your drafting if you want, given a mere TE29 best ball ADP. Even in that range, though, you can find guys with higher ceilings such as Greg Dulcich and Colby Parkinson.

Matt Schauf Author Image
Matt Schauf, Editor
Matt has earned two Fantasy Pros accuracy awards for IDP rankings and won thousands of dollars as a player across best ball, dynasty, and high-stakes fantasy formats. He has been creating fantasy football content for more than 20 years, with work featured by Sporting News, Rotoworld, Athlon, Sirius XM, and others. He's been with Draft Sharks since 2011.
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