Settling the debate: Demaryius Thomas over Dez Bryant

Since being drafted only two selections apart in the 2010 NFL Draft, Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and newly dubbed unrestricted free agent wide receiver Dez Bryant have been compared side-to-side.

It’s uncanny when you put the statistics of Thomas and Bryant side-by-side as the players are separated in many statistics by the slimmest of margins. There’s plenty to like from both players, but a few factors separate the two if you were choosing today that clearly sway the needle in favor of the wide receiver wearing blue and orange.

Consistency

One of the few consistent targets of the entire NFL over his time in the league has been Thomas. Thomas has caught 90+ catches in five of his eight years so far and seven short of that mark in 2017. Bryant has achieved this mark only twice. In the two years where Bryant reached that milestone of 90+ catches (2012 – 2013) he fielded 297 targets in those years. Thomas did the same with 10 less targets but continued on the next two years to catch over 100+ passes. A mark that was never achieved by Bryant.

Thomas has also started 16 games in the last six years, while Bryant has logged a full 16-game season only three times in his career and has missed 12 potential starts in the last six years.

Is consistency and production is your monitor, raise the winning hand in favor of Thomas.

  • Advantage: Thomas

Career years head-to-head

There’s a lot of statistics that point towards 2014 being career years for both players. Thomas collected an outstanding 111 receptions and brought in 1,619 yards — most in a single season in those categories between the two players — while collecting 11 touchdowns and averaging a 101.2 yards per game, ranking him second in the AFC that year.

Bryant’s 2014 was just as brilliant. Bryant finished with only 88 receptions for 1,320 yards, but a career-high 16 touchdowns. The highest single-season collection between the two players in that category. Bryant was also given the nod for first-team all-pro, an achievement that Thomas has yet to tally.

The years are so closely stacked it’s unfair to choose between the two. The all-pro vote likely is the difference maker that sways the advantage to Bryant, though Thomas and his second-team all-pro vote shouldn’t be ignored.

  • Advantage: Bryant

Moments

The 2014 year also represented the ‘Dez caught it’ year, where one of the most controversial non-catches in NFL history took place.

But no moment made between the two players tops the Demaryius Thomas, game-winner in overtime. An 80-yard strike from Tim Tebow to Thomas to beat the Steelers on the ‘3:16 game.’

A stiff-arm that catapulted the wild card Broncos to the next round, Thomas delivered on the big stage with a play that’s cemented into NFL history.

  • Advantage: Thomas

Surrounding talent

Thomas caught passes from one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, but in the four years catching passes from Tebow, Kyle Orton, Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch (arguably his shakiest quarterback situations in his career.) Thomas averaged 56 receptions per year over the four years in 39 games. (2010, 2011, 2016 and 2017)

In Dallas’s most unstable years of quarterback play, Bryant averaged 48 receptions per year in 40 games overall (2010 – 2015 – 2016 – 2017.) Many however would scoff at the idea that Dak Prescott was ‘shaky’ by any means as the lead man throwing to Bryant.

When it comes to a rushing attack to accent the passing game, the Cowboys held a rushing attack far better than the Broncos — ranking top-ten in the NFL four-times in Bryant’s career with the Cowboys while the Broncos in Thomas’s career have only achieved this feat once.

The surrounding talent overall favors Bryant, yet even in those years. Thomas put up better numbers, so chalk up another point for Thomas.

  • Advantage: Thomas

Honors

Demaryius Thomas

  • 5x Pro Bowler (2012-2016)
  • 2x Second-team All-Pro (2013-2014)
  • 1x Super Bowl Championship (Super Bowl 50)

Dez Bryant

  • 3x Pro Bowler (2013, 2014, 2016)
  • First-team All-Pro (2014)

Advantage: Thomas

Result: Demaryius Thomas

Two wide receivers were selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft and it turns out Denver made the right selection in Thomas as he sits on-top as the best receiver from the draft. Neither may finish as the best wide receiver taken in the draft (Antonio Brown was selected in the sixth-round,) but certainly of the two who seemed to be linked because of draft position, advantage Thomas.

Now that Bryant is on to his next team, Thomas remains with the Broncos and will likely finish his career with franchise records in nearly every category you want as a receiver. It may be a discussion re-opened in the future, but it appears clear today that Thomas stands on-top.

Thomas will finish his career in Denver nearing the franchise lead in every stat you want as a receiver; including receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. And that’s music to the ears of Broncos Country.

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