After coming off a record-setting year in 2019, where he caught 149 passes, Michael Thomas only played 7 games in 2020 due to an ankle injury. Thomas has been one of the best wide receivers in the NFL since he was drafted in 2016, as he holds records in the most receptions in a player’s second, third and fourth years as a pro. Despite all of the accolades and awards and records Thomas holds, that doesn’t stop Twitter from ruthlessly roasting him by calling him “Slant Boy” and pointing out his stat line whenever he doesn’t perform. But hey, they don’t boo nobodies. Thomas is 27 years old now and will look to have a bounce-back year in his first season without Drew Brees as his quarterback.
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Michael Thomas was hobbled all season long by an ankle injury. And that makes sense considering that he caught a record-breaking amount of passes in the 2019 regular season, so it’s obvious in hindsight that his body was a little more broken down than we thought. Thomas was on a limited snap count in the 7 games he did play in, so he also couldn’t produce as much as fantasy owners expected him to. Thomas did show good signs in 2020, like in his two games against the Falcons, where he caught a combined 18 passes for 209 yards, but again the opportunities just weren’t there. If Thomas is fully healthy for 2021, I expect him to return to form and become the top 10 fantasy receiver we know him to be.
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If there is no lingering issue with his ankle injury, then Michael Thomas should have another 100+ reception and 1,000+ receiving yards season in 2021. Thomas is by far the best receiver on the Saints, and the Saints love to give him the ball in open spaces. He’s not called “Slant Boy” for nothing, as one of the Saints’ favorite play calls was to run a slant route to him because it was basically an automatic first down. Thomas has quick feet off the line, runs some of the most fluid routes in the league, and is dynamic in open spaces, so it’s no wonder the Saints love him so much. And the Saints are going to need every bit of production out of Thomas if they want to make the playoffs in 2021.
ADP & Auction Value
ADP: 26, Rounds 2-3, WR8
Auction Value: $27
Being ranked as the #8 receiver despite missing over half of the season shows the respect fantasy draft evaluators have for Thomas. It’s hard to put Thomas over fantasy studs like Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill, but he is in that second tier of elite receivers among the likes of Calvin Ridley and Justin Jefferson. Thomas is uber-talented when he plays and catches anything thrown his way. The Saints typically like to throw to him shortly and let him make a play, which is excellent in half-PPR or PPR leagues, but he can also rip off 25-yard gains if he needs to. Thomas is going to catch a lot of balls in 2021 and should be worth his top 10 receiver status.
Two things may factor in the decline of Michael Thomas from a fantasy perspective. First is his health. Injuries never fully go away unless you retire, and having a healthy ankle is important to a player who makes a lot of sharp movements throughout a season. Second is the quarterback who is throwing to him. Drew Brees isn’t there anymore, and even the Saints haven’t figured out who is starting for them in Week 1. Taysom Hill is the presumed starter, but Jameis Winston is also lurking in the background. The Saints are a mess at quarterback right now, and that could limit the number of yards and touchdowns Thomas might catch. Thomas is going to catch a lot of passes in the Saints offense. It’s just how many yards or touchdowns he will catch is the question.
I am talking myself into seeing Thomas returning to the dominant fantasy player he is in 2021. Thomas is one of the best stat hogs in the NFL and that is crucial as a fantasy owner. You could be down 20, but if you have Michael Thomas then you can feel good about your chances of winning that game. That’s how good he is from a fantasy perspective. You should always be scared of playing the guy with Micahel Thomas because he gobbles up catches like they are Oreo’s. No matter who is throwing him the ball, Thomas will be the highlight of the offense, alongside Alvin Kamara, and will produce like the best receiver in the league every week.
New Orleans Saints Offense
It’s really hard to judge the Saints’ offense heading into 2021. The obvious headline with the Saints is that their long-time franchise quarterback, Drew Brees, retired after 15 years with the team. Now they are stuck with Taysom Hill or Jamies Winston as their starting quarterback. This doesn’t bode well for the Saints as Drew Brees led the Saints to a top 5 scoring offense that had the 12th most yards in the league last season.
The other main weapons on offense include the two-headed monster in Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. This team is the definition of pick your poison on offense. Do you want to not get beat through the air? Cool, then Alvin Kamara can rush for 6 touchdowns as he did on the Vikings. Oh, you want to stop the run? Alright, then Michael Thomas and their other receivers like Deonte Harris and Tre’Quan Smith can catch every pass and destroy you with their passing attack. Sean Payton has had this offense humming for 15 years now but this upcoming season presents a new challenge as it will be the first time he’s doing it without Drew Brees to help him.
Strength of Schedule
The Saints have the 22nd hardest schedule in 2021. And that might be a good thing for them with all of the changes going on within their team. This year’s challenges include playing the AFC East, NFC East, Seahawks, Packers, and Titans. Looking at their schedule, we can see that some of their tougher games include playing the Seahawks, Titans, Bills, Buccaneers, Dolphins, and Patriots. I would include their Week 1 game against the Packers in this tougher game section, but will all of the drama about Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, it’s impossible to predict that game. The Saints also get some easy games mixed into their schedule as they get to play the Jets, Panthers, Falcons, and the entire NFC East. The Saints should win all of these games as they are the better team in every one of those games. The Saints should be eyeing the playoffs before the season starts, but that can just as quickly disappear if they get less than average quarterback play throughout the season.
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