Two years ago, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas had a season for the ages. Thomas set an NFL record for catches in a single season with 149. He topped 1,700 receiving yards. He scored nine touchdowns. And he finished as the No. 1 fantasy wide receiver in points per reception (PPR) scoring systems by more than 100 points.
Needless to say, that incredible season got Thomas drafted first among all wideouts per Fantasy Football Calculator and in the Top 5 overall. What happened next was a catastrophe — Thomas missed nine games due to injuries, was slapped with a one-game suspension and posted far and away the worst numbers of his career. The 28-year-old’s 40 catches for 438 yards and zero touchdowns was the kind of stat line that kills fantasy seasons.
And as if that disastrous season wasn’t enough, quarterback Drew Brees called it a career at the end of the 2020 season, leaving a massive question mark under center in New Orleans in 2021.
In news that should surprise exactly zero people, that down year and the change under center have put a sizable dent in Thomas’ average draft position (ADP). He is still being drafted as a fantasy WR1, but just barely — he’s coming off the board 10th among all wide receivers in the front half of Round 3 and even that ADP is a topic of some debate.
There are those who believe that ranking Thomas as a low-end fantasy WR1 is just about right — or maybe even a touch on the high-end. Then there are those who think that Thomas could be on the verge of a big-time rebound and that he’s a great value pick as a wide receiver with Top 5 upside available in Round 3.
Thomas Has Been a BEAST
First off, let’s talk about the high-ankle sprain and suspension that robbed Thomas of so much of his 2020 campaign — and left such a bad taste in the mouths of fantasy managers. As unfortunate as that injury was, it was also the first time that Thomas had missed any real time — in the four seasons prior to last year the former Ohio State standout missed a single game. That’s it.
There has been nothing to indicate that Thomas’ rehab isn’t progressing well, or that he will be anything but 100 percent for the season opener.
But.. here’s a reality check: Thomas isn’t ever going to outscore every other receiver in the league by 100 PPR points again. It’s called a career season for a reason. Thomas isn’t catching 149 passes, nor is he being targeted 185 times. He probably isn’t topping 1,700 receiving yards either.
Of course, Thomas’ average season from 2016-18 wasn’t exactly cat food. Over those three years, Thomas averaged 139 targets, 107 receptions, 1,262 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. That average isn’t an unreasonable baseline for Thomas — and it would have ranked him sixth in PPR points in 2020, just ahead Seattle’s DK Metcalf. He’s been mostly durable. And wildly productive.
Still, injury isn’t the only thing scaring off fantasy managers where Thomas is concerned in 2021.
The QB Quandary
One of the most closely-watched position battles in all of the NFL is the duel between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill to replace Drew Brees. Per Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, head coach Sean Payton said it’s not a decision that will be made in April. Or June. Or July.
“The most important thing is leading this team, leading the offense to scores — protecting the football and scoring,” he said. “There are certain commandments that we think are really important. Both of them have shown great leadership skills. Both of them have been very unselfish. It’s been a really good room here for a while, even back when Teddy (Bridgewater) was in the room. The rest of it will take care of itself. Obviously, it’s on us to give these guys the best stuff that we feel like they can execute and allow them to play.”