Breakout TE Logan Thomas still has room to improve in 2021

TE Logan Thomas had a breakout 2020 season. However, the advanced metrics suggest that he can still improve as a pass catcher in 2021.

Logan Thomas had a slow start to his NFL career at the TE position. Since switching to tight end after a year in the league, he has received few opportunities. However, in 2020, Thomas finally got the chance to shine with the Washington Football Team, ultimately earning himself a three-year extension. Despite his success, the advanced metrics suggest that he still has room to improve as a pass catcher.

Logan Thomas had an excellent 2020 season

The term “breakout season” was invented for what Thomas did last season. After struggling to find a place in the depth chart for his first few seasons in the NFL, he improved dramatically in 2020.

During his first season in Washington, Thomas caught 72 passes for 670 yards and 6 touchdowns. Not only did those numbers easily outpace his statistics from every prior season combined, they also ranked competitively when compared to the other tight ends in the league.

In 2020, Thomas had the third-most receptions of any TE, the seventh-most yards, and was tied for the 10th-most touchdowns.

For a player who, not so long ago, seemed like they might never amount to anything at the NFL level, to transform into one of the NFL’s most productive tight ends is remarkable.

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The advanced metrics from Logan Thomas’ breakout year

While Thomas’ box score statistics from 2020 were a dramatic improvement over what he had produced in previous years, the advanced metrics suggest that he still needs to develop further as a receiver.

To illustrate my point, let’s turn to the Offensive Value Metric (OVM). The OVM is a grading system created by the (Bx) Movement to measure players based on how much they contributed to the statistics they produced.

In 2020, Thomas earned a grade of 31.57. That is far from terrible, but it isn’t anything special either, ranking 21st out of 34 qualifying tight ends. The grade indicates that, unlike some of the other highly productive tight ends in the NFL last season, such as Travis Kelce or Darren Waller, Thomas didn’t contribute much to his offense.

Examining Thomas’ weekly grades

For a more in-depth look at Thomas’ 2020 season, let’s check out his weekly OVM grades. The chart below shows his OVM grades from each week of the 2020 season, marked by the black dots. For comparison, the average regular-season grade for tight ends is represented by the yellow line.

As you can see, Thomas’ grades encompassed a fairly wide range. His low of 15.44 ranked as the 14th-lowest grade received by any tight end in 2020. To Thomas’ credit, that was his worst grade by a wide margin. Still, he earned grades in the low 20s on multiple occasions.

On the other hand, Thomas also received two grades well above 40 points, at 45.96 and 48.13, both of which ranked inside the top 25 overall TE grades.

To be fair, it is rather unsurprising that Thomas wasn’t able to put together consistently elite performances. He is after all still relatively new to the tight end position. Furthermore, he had to deal with a Washington quarterback situation that was constantly in flux.

Fortunately for him, both of those factors should change next season.

Looking at the advanced metrics behind Thomas’ OVM grades

To understand why Thomas’ OVM grades weren’t as high as you might expect given his box score success, we need to examine the advanced metrics involved in calculating TE grades.

Thomas struggled on most of these statistics in 2020. To start with, he had a relatively low catch percentage for his position at 65.45%. He also averaged just 2.9 yards of separation when targeted, the 10th-lowest average among all qualifying tight ends.

Finally, Thomas produced a particularly low yards after the catch average, at just 4.1 yards, tied for 11th-worst among all tight ends. Although, to Thomas’ credit, that number was 0.7 yards higher than expected, according to the NFL’s projections, a differential that was slightly above the average.

Despite his age, Thomas might just be getting started

Thomas might not have been an elite receiving TE last season, but 2020 was still undeniably his best year in the NFL. Given his inexperience at the position compared to most tight ends his age, and the improvement he has already shown during his career, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if he were even better in 2021.

Thomas’ development should be helped by the arrival of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Despite his inconsistencies, the veteran will be a substantial improvement over any of the quarterbacks Washington fielded last season.

The contract Washington gave Thomas clearly indicates that they believe his best years are still ahead of him. If he rewards their confidence by continuing to develop, Washington could be a dark horse playoff contender in 2021.

Lucas Ellinas is a writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter @Lucas_Ellinas.

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