Fantasy Focus: Don’t Sleep On Rookie Speedster As A Dirt-Cheap Dynasty Stash

July 11, 2022
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When the Patriots drafted Tyquan Thornton in the second round of the 2022 NFL draft, fans, players, and executives of the rest of the NFL were stunned. They’ll have the same reaction when the gutsy risk-taker in our fantasy football leagues takes him early. People had the speedster lower on their draft boards, but with the potential that he has this season, all of those skeptics may be left in stunned silence a year from now.

Why Are People Sleeping On Tyquan Thornton?

Most draft boards had Tyquan Thornton in the third or fourth round of the NFL draft this year. At the same time, his latent potential was viewed highly. Some key points that people criticized. Many will cite his inconsistent production, at least in terms of raw numbers. Last season was the best of his college career, with 62 receptions, 948 yards, and nine TD. While these were respectable figures, they were on the modest side, especially the touchdowns, compared to some of the best receivers in the draft class.

People will look at his game-by-game breakdown and see games where he only had three receptions or less than 50 yards. To a league executive who screams back up and to a fantasy owner who screams “pick up on waivers.” Of course, Thornton’s speed turned heads with his combine-leading 40-yard dash time of 4.28 seconds. However, his three-cone drill time of 7.25 seconds was a more middling figure, which would naturally give questions about his agility.

Combine this with the uncertain coaching situation in New England on the offensive side and the lack of success of Patriots’ draft picks at the receiver position, which will give doubts about his potential impact. On the fantasy football side, the modest numbers in college, especially in touchdowns, don’t scream out the numbers of an early-round pick. Also, the fact that the Patriots have always been a team that prioritizes spreading the ball out to many weapons, most seasons, even in the Brady era, involved a lot of receivers with respectable numbers but none with eye-popping numbers.

Tyquan Thornton looks to build on the promise shown in his college career in New England – from USA Today.

Why Should New England’s Play-Callers & This Year’s Fantasy Owners Take The Risk On Tyquan Thornton?

Realizing what Tyquan Thornton can produce this year requires a deeper dive into his stats and game tape rather than simply examining his numbers. College football does not have the same guaranteed level of quarterback play as in the NFL, and in the end, a receiver needs to have the ball thrown well in their direction to have a chance to catch it. Some of the greatest college receiving seasons over the past few years, be it Ja’Marr Chase in 2019 or Devonta Smith in 2020, have had a common theme. There has been an excellent quarterback throwing to them – Chase had Burrow, and Smith had the guy who will now be throwing Thornton in Mac Jones.

Thornton, on the other hand, had Gerry Bohanon. To Bohanon’s credit, he managed games well and led a winning Baylor team. However, his 173 completions, 18 TD, and 2200 yards were mediocre figures in the FBS and subpar figures for a power five QB. His best outings were in his opening three games against easier competition. Thornton caught more than a third of Bohanon’s passes, half of his TDs, and almost half of his yards.

Being able to play such a heavy role in the offense shows that his 2021 season was extraordinary when viewed in context. Furthermore, he caught 3 of his TDs against Baylor’s three most difficult opponents in Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Ole Miss, and never had any fear of the big moment or the powerhouse in his time as a Bear.

His game tape confirms his vertical speed and involves many instances where he outran his opposing corners on deep passes. But Thornton was also a receiver with excellent horizontal speed on slant or crossing routes and one who could quickly maneuver and change direction mid-route. One particularly eye-catching play involved him changing direction at the end of a go route and being wide open for a touchdown. The corner, having to guess and maintain his direction because of Tyquan’s vertical speed, didn’t have the option of adjusting with him. And to add to all of that, he caught many passes in tight or double coverage.

The tape leaves a lot to be excited about with Thornton, and with an excellent quarterback in Mac Jones who looks primed to make a second-year leap throwing to him, he could put up incredible numbers. While Jones does spread the ball quite a bit, the Patriots have lacked a genuine deep threat for quite some time, and if he materializes, Thornton could be the one grabbing many of the deeper passes and touchdowns from Jones. Fantasy owners should salivate at this prospect, especially with Jones working on his throwing arm this offseason, at a guy who can break the mold of Patriots’ receivers and potentially dominate the team’s production.

The Bottom Line With The Speedster

Thornton will contribute to the Patriots’ offense and gives a much-needed deep threat. He can become the go-to on many plays, making him an excellent decoy to provide openings for others to shine. As a part of a fantasy team, Tyquan can perform well above his value in a typical fantasy draft board and put up big numbers, especially with his ability to become the finisher of many New England’s drives this season. Tyquan could be one of the most exciting people to watch in Foxborough this season and a vital X-factor for the Patriots.

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