You know that feeling when you think you’re going to write about one thing, and then you see that Michael Thomas is the WR24 in fantasy football ADP? It’s at that moment when you realize that you need to have a stern talk with the entire fantasy football world.
I’m glad you’re here. Take a seat.
What are we doing, people? Michael Thomas has appeared in just seven games since his magical 2019 season, and all of a sudden, he is worth a 5th-round pick? The flaws in this thinking are many. Drafters are making a mistake with Michael Thomas, and here are the problems with his ADP.
Problem #1: The Injury
If we only look back to 2019, Michael Thomas appears to be a steal. The problem is that we are looking past two entire seasons and, more importantly, a lingering ankle injury. Thomas hurt his ankle in Week 1 of 2020 and injured his hamstring while already out with the ankle. In total, Thomas missed eight straight weeks. He was still pretty good when he returned, going for over 50 yards in five of six games and over 100 yards in two. Then the ankle got worse, and he missed the last three games.
At face value, that story isn’t that bad. But then 2021 came around. Thomas delayed having surgery the previous year so he could appear in the playoffs. But he delayed until June, right around the time minicamps would start. The team wasn’t happy with Thomas, and Thomas was not happy with the Saints.
The two sides don’t seem to be bickering anymore, as Thomas restructured his deal to help New Orleans’ cap situation and will likely be a Saint for at least the next two seasons. However, he is still not cleared to play from the SAME ANKLE INJURY. I’m no injury expert but if an ankle injury takes more than 12 months to heal, cut that thing off!
All jokes aside, Thomas hasn’t played a meaningful game in over 15 months and still cannot practice. He is 29 years old and unlikely to return to 2019 form. Even if he does, this is not the 2019 Saints.
Problem #2: It’s Not 2019 Anymore
This is simple addition and subtraction. The head coach and quarterback are gone, and the wide receiver room is a lot more full. Jameis Winston has replaced Drew Brees. Winston is a good quarterback but could not be more different than Brees. Brees was calculating and took what the defense gave. It was perfect for a wide receiver who loved slant routes and caught every easy pass. Winston throws it a mile and hopes his players get there before the defense. Has anyone actually seen Winston hit a clean slant route?
While Pete Carmichael remains the OC, Payton’s exit means that new players may get chances they did not before. Immediately, Taysom Hill was stripped of QB duties and moved to TE. It was a show that Payton was no longer in charge. That also means the offense could change a bit, and force-feeding a WR 32% of the team’s passes seems unlikely to happen again.
Finally, let’s look at the WRs around Thomas. In 2019, Ted Ginn was 2nd in the group for targets with 56. That put him 4th on the team behind Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook. Jared Cook was 3rd on that team in targets. They had no choice but to force the ball to Thomas.
The Saints have brought in Jarvis Landry and spent a 1st-Round pick on Chris Olave. Landry excels in the slot, and Olave is a better outside route runner than anyone on the team. The team also brought back Deonte Harty and Marquez Callaway, last year’s leading wide receivers. So while Thomas might be the most talented of the group, it is no longer a one-horse race.
For a team that is likely to throw the ball around 550 times, Thomas will be lucky to see a 20% target share. That would put his ceiling at 110 targets. A 110-target Michael Thomas, catching balls from a far less efficient Jameis Winston, will struggle to be a fantasy WR3. Yet, you’re drafting him as the WR24.
Problem #3: Look Who You’re Ignoring
Looking at FantasyPros ADP, drafters are leaving quality receivers in the draft pool to take Thomas. Do you like targets? Take Darnell Mooney or Amon-Ra St Brown. If it’s efficiency you’re after, Hunter Renfrow is your guy. How about a true WR1 like Courtland Sutton and Rashod Bateman. Even if you just want a comeback story, Allen Robinson or Juju Smith-Schuster will be a better one than Michael Thomas.
Those are just the wide receivers. You can still land quality running backs like Damien Harris, AJ Dillon, or even rookie Ken Walker after pick 60. There is no reason to take Thomas this early. Maybe in the 8th Round. I’d feel better about the 10th. With all of these red flags, why take him in the 5th?
The Real Problem
Name recognition. You’ve seen his name at the top of your rankings before, and now you think you’re pulling off a heist, landing him in the 5th Round. Well, you’re no Danny Ocean, and he’s not worth nearly as much as you think. We’ve made this mistake before. Most recently, Julio Jones in 2021.
After an injury-riddled 2020, where we saw a 31-year-old Jones play in just nine games and finish as the WR52, Jones was being drafted as the WR18. He rewarded those faithful drafters with 10 games played, fewer catches, fewer yards, fewer TDs, and a WR93 finish. He was on a new team, no longer the focal point of the offense, and too old to recover from his injuries.
Sound familiar? At 29 years old, Thomas isn’t exactly ancient, but his recovery is not going well. His QB is different, and there are more options in the passing game. Even if he plays 17 games, he will not approach Michael Thomas of 2019 numbers. You’re drafting him as your team’s WR2, and he is just as likely to be fantasy’s WR93.
A Look Inside the New Orleans Saints
Editor’s Note: We asked our writers to focus on one player, but we don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While I focused on Michael Thomas in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the rest of the Saints, prepared by Josh Hudson.
Jameis Winston: YOLO, bitches. That’s Winston as a QB in a nutshell. His 5-2 record as a starter in 2021 before his knee injury looked good, but his QB20 numbers were nothing to shake a stick at. Former head coach Sean Payton shackled him, forcing him to be more methodical. With Payton now gone, will those shackles come off? Winston can be a streaming option and a quality pick in 2-QB/Superflex leagues, but his lack of rushing will likely keep him grounded in what isn’t expected to be a gunslingin’ offense. – Josh Hudson
Alvin Kamara: Kamara is likely facing a suspension for his arrest in February at the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas. When that suspension will be levied and for how long remain to be seen. Still, we know how good Kamara is, especially when he sees targets. The problem in 2021? He didn’t see near the number of targets he did during the first four years of his career. He set a career-high in carries but career lows in yards per carry, targets, and receptions. For this Saints offense to be effective, Kamara must be used properly. His current price of RB9 is a little too rich for my blood, especially with a suspension looming. – Josh Hudson
Mark Ingram: Mark Ingram is 32 years old. He plays running back in the NFL. Do I really need to say more? He managed 160 carries between Houston and New Orleans last year and only 554 yards. For this offense to be effective, Kamara needs fewer carries and more targets. That means Ingram needs to be the in-between the tackles bruiser. He set career lows last year in yards per carry and scored only two touchdowns all season. The Saints will be in trouble if Ingram shows his age. – Josh Hudson
Jarvis Landry: Landry has come home. The former LSU standout agreed to a one-year deal with the Saints after his release from Cleveland. Landry has always been one of the best slot receivers in the NFL. He’s not the player he used to be, but as a veteran, his main job will be making sure Chris Olave becomes the WR the Saints hope he will be. Oh, and to move the chains. I’m not expecting much more than 90 targets if Michael Thomas is healthy. If Thomas isn’t, maybe he clears 100 with 65 catches. He’s a middling FLEX option, at best. – Josh Hudson
Chris Olave: The rookie from Ohio State is arguably the smoothest route runner from this year’s draft class. His speed is an added bonus. Winston will be able to get him the ball, but the question becomes how often. If Michael Thomas remains sidelined due to injury or is ineffective in his return, the sky’s the limit. But a healthy Thomas will likely keep Olave from blossoming during his rookie as he’ll be the fourth option in the passing game behind Thomas, Landry, and Kamara. – Josh Hudson
We hope you enjoyed our look at Michael Thomas for fantasy football this season. You can find all of our A Look Inside articles here!
If you’re prepping for your dynasty drafts, you can also find our rookie consensus rankings here if you’re preparing for your dynasty drafts!