Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/19/12
I think any wide receiver who managed to produce numbers with Tim Tebow launching fluttering ducks across the field deserves a pat on the back or a bonus. 

Fortunately for Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, their bonus came in the form of Peyton Manning bringing his talents to the Mile High City. 

Now that Manning has arrived, training camp is wrapped up, and a couple preseason games are under the Broncos' belt, it's time to make a declaration on which Denver receiver will produce the most in the new Manning-led offense. 

First a quick review of the receiver's brief careers:
  • Eric Decker - 2010 third round pick:
    • 2010: 6 rec, 106 yards, 1 TD in 14 games.
    • 2011: 44 rec, 95 targets, 612 yards, 8 TD in 16 games.
  • Demaryius Thomas - 2010 first-round pick:
    • 2010: 22 rec, 283 yards, 2 TD in 10 games.
    • 2011: 32 rec, 70 targets, 551 yards, 4 TD, in 11 games.

Neither did much to impress in their rookie campaigns, but some contrast exists between the numbers put up last year. Both Decker and Thomas caught 46 percent of the passes thrown their way, but Decker had 25 more targets.  Decker also had four more touchdowns and played a complete season last year.  You can't look at Thomas' games played history and be encouraged. There's significant risk for injury, be aware.   

Outside of Megatron, the knock on any Georgia Tech receiver is they can't run an NFL route-tree, and this holds true with Thomas. Entering his third year he's far better at route running than as a rookie, but he still has a ways to go.

Thomas had four catches of 40+ yards last year, accounting for at least 30 percent of his production for the entire season. Of course Manning can throw a more accurate deep ball than Tebow, but that's not really his game. 

When Manning's offense is firing on all cylinders it's about timing, precision passing and sharp routes, and getting a lead for the defense to play with. No one can really say if Manning will get back to his old self, but even if he does, firing long balls to Thomas isn't going to be a main play for the Broncos. 

While the odds don't seem to favor Thomas exploding this year, the numbers and situation do suggest Decker is primed for a breakout year. Decker has always been considered a competent route runner - a necessity to excel as Manning's No. 1 receiver. 

Decker also saw more targets, proved to be healthier, and gained favor with the coaching staff last year. This year in training camp it's been reported that Decker and Manning sharing a burgeoning rapport, which shouldn't take anyone by surprise. 

Based off of injury history, last year's statistics, and the addition of Manning, you definitely want Decker on your fantasy team over Thomas.  Currently Thomas is being drafted five to eight spots ahead of Decker in the middle rounds of drafts. If you're drafting in a PPR league, look at Decker around the fifth to seventh round and cash in on the money middle-round pick.   

On a side note, Brandon Stokley may be a deep sleeper this year. He was involved in recruiting Manning to Denver and shares a long history with the quarterback. In last night's preseason game versus the Seahawks, Stokley looked five years younger and connected well with Manning. He’s someone to keep an eye, given his background and Thomas' injury risk.

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