Juwan Thompson is a Must-Hold in Dynasty
Juwan Thompson is fourth on the depth chart for the Denver Broncos, behind Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson who have all had their moments of productivity come and go. So why, then, am I calling an undrafted free agent out of Duke University a must-hold in dynasty leagues?
Thompson is, I believe, the best running back on the roster, and a perfect fit for the Denver offense.
While Thompson wasn’t drafted this past season, one could certainly understand why: Working out of a multi-back committee at Duke, Thompson’s carries have gone down ever since his sophomore year in 2011 where he received 110 carries, and then 75 the year after, until ultimately finishing with just 64 in 2013. Typically, you don’t get one of your better players less involved in an offense as they get older, but that’s the hand Thompson was dealt. Thompson was so good at so many things, he was spread thin, as he was both special teams ace, and a package linebacker on defense.
However, while Thompson’s carries decreased over time at Duke, his production steadily increased, finishing out his career at Duke with 5.4 YPC in 2013, and 4.5 for his tenure. More important than that however, is that Thompson’s time at Duke allowed him to develop into a solid pass blocker, which may play a key component in his near, and long-term future with the Broncos.
It’s no secret that Montee Ball is dreadful at pass blocking, and combined with his inability thus far in the 2014 season to get into a groove running the ball (just 3.4 YPC over four weeks as of this article), you’ve got yourself a recipe for a committee approach in the near future.
Ronnie Hillman is a better-than-advertised player, and brings some unique elusiveness to the Broncos running game, however at 195 pounds he doesn’t present the kind of size the Broncos want in a back where passing on first down is just as likely as passing on third.
Last-year’s rookie darling C.J. Anderson may be the best running back of the top three on the roster, and at 224 pounds he certainly has some bulk to handle some of the pressure teams will throw at Peyton Manning, however he’s only 5’8′ and does nothing spectacular. Make no mistake, Anderson is the biggest threat to Thompson’s value as the future of the Denver backfield, but he’s not such a road block that you would perceive him as insurmountable.
And then there’s Juwan Thompson, the back from Duke that has the ideal size of an NFL running back at 5’11 and 225 pounds, has a refined pass blocking skillset that he prides himself in, and a powerful and smooth running style that has had some already calling him the next Terrell Davis.
Thompson put on a very good showing in the preseason, leading the Broncos in yards and putting up a strong performance against the Seahawks first-string defense. While his game against the 49ers the following week was less impressive (as was everyone in the running game), he did put up yet another highlight-worthy play to put the Broncos in scoring position.
Another great asset of Thompson is his great ball security. In his time in Duke, Thompson never fumbled, and he does an excellent job at making minor adjustments before contact to keep himself safe from big hits — Juwan is great at dishing out the pain, but is smart about taking it back. Along with his strength and power as a runner, the added ability to pass protect and hold on to the football is precisely the kind of skillset the Broncos crave in their offense.
While Thompson didn’t handle a ton of passes at Duke, he did show soft hands which along with everything else makes him a strong candidate to stay on the field on passing downs.
In his short work in the preseason, as well as what can be seen at Duke, Thompson has shown everything you would expect from a “thumper” running back, but also has shown skills you wouldn’t expect, such as a solid burst, surprising spin move and nifty feet. No, he’s no LeSean McCoy on the agility scales, but he is a very good at making the small adjustments needed to find, and squeeze through the hole.
We may have to wait until late in the season to see more of Juwan Thompson, or we may not see more of him at all outside of preseason for another year or two, but if I was a betting man I would be looking to get a hold of Thompson and stash him for the future. Sooner or later, talent usually wins out, especially when your talents are such a strong fit for the situation.