Michael Thomas has sky-high expectations coming into this season after doing better than anyone could have imagined as a rookie. Thomas actually led the Saints in targets, catches and touchdowns in 2016. That was enough for the coaching staff to trade away receiver Brandin Cooks and hand the 6-foot-3 behemoth the No. 1 role in the offense. With Drew Brees quarterbacking, that's a very good thing. There's actually reason to believe Thomas' stats will improve in 2017 now that he'll see more targets with Cooks gone. He also won't see a lot of double-teams since the Saints still have Willie Snead in the slot and burner Ted Ginn playing the other side of the field. It's a sort of perfect storm for Thomas, who should end up going in Round 2 in all drafts as a No. 1 Fantasy receiver.
Thomas grabbed both passes sent his way for a total of 17 yards in Thursday's 20-14 preseason loss to the Browns. It was no surprise to see Thomas exit the game early after getting a taste of game action, but he displayed his typically reliable hands a couple of times before taking a seat. The second-year pro will be handled with care until the regular season rolls around, as he's expected to be a focal point of the offense after racking up 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns on 92 receptions as a rookie in 2016.
Thomas reported for OTAs at 220 pounds, up from last year's playing weight of 210, John DeShazier of the Saints' official site reports. Players often add significant muscle mass during their first full offseason in an NFL strength program, and it seems the 6-foot-3 Thomas has filled out his frame to what's essentially the ideal size for a wide receiver. Coming off one of the most productive campaigns by a rookie pass catcher in league history, Thomas is locked in as the top option in a prolific aerial attack that downgraded from Brandin Cooks to Ted Ginn on the opposite side. While the team may try to run more often after adding Adrian Peterson to the backfield, Thomas and Willie Snead shouldn't lack for targets in an offense that's attempted 650 or more passes in each of the last seven seasons. Even if the Saints drop that number closer to 600, as they presumably hope to, Thomas should have a high enough target share to ensure that volume isn't a problem.
With the Saints trading Brandin Cooks to the Patriots on Friday, Thomas will enter the 2017 season as the team's No. 1 wide receiver. Thomas enjoyed a stellar rookie campaign, reeling in 92 receptions for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns in 2016. Cooks, meanwhile, caught 78 passes on a whopping 177 targets last season. With Cooks no longer in the fold, the paint-by-numbers analysis will read that Thomas should see a boost in production as a result of increased targets in his sophomore season. Thomas is a talented player, so there is certainly reason to expect the Ohio State product to continue his upward trajectory. However, quarterback Drew Brees is not afraid to spread the ball around, so to justify his rising fantasy stock, Thomas will have to quickly prove that he can produce big numbers while facing additional defensive attention as the Saints' top receiving weapon.
Thomas plucked 10 of 14 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's loss to Atlanta. The yards, catches and targets all marked career highs. A whopping four of his catches went for 20 yards or more and he helped spark a Saints comeback attempt with a diving 14-yard catch-and-run touchdown early in the fourth quarter. It's hard to imagine how this season could have gone better for the rookie second rounder. With rumors swirling as to what could be next for fellow young stalwart Brandin Cooks, Thomas has shown down the stretch that he is capable of being a go-to target in this offense if leaned on further next season.
Thomas gathered in six of eight targets for 98 yards in Saturday's 31-24 win over the Bucs. The standout rookie led the Saints in receptions on the afternoon, and shared the receiving yardage lead with Brandin Cooks as well. Although he didn't add to his burgeoning touchdown total, Thomas did post his third-best yardage total of the season, and now needs just 19 yards against the Falcons in Week 17 to reach the 1,000-yard milestone.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|2||09/17||New England Patriots||7||19.74|
|7||10/22||@Green Bay Packers||32||29.11|
|9||11/05||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||19||22.88|
|12||11/26||@Los Angeles Rams||31||25.25|
|15||12/17||New York Jets||18||22.75|
|17||12/31||@Tampa Bay Buccaneers||19||22.88|
|3 Year Avg||122||92||1137||9||62||12.36||167|