Without really even needing to delve into it, it is very well known that Michael Thomas — the best offensive player on the New Orleans Saints — is the best wide receiver in the league, only behind Christian McCaffrey in terms of best overall offensive player in the league. And with Thomas catching passes from Drew Brees and having the likes of Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook, multi-purpose weapon Taysom Hill, and offseason signee Emmanuel Sanders helping take some of the load off of his shoulders, Thomas is able to succeed each and every year in the league.
Thomas has been one of the most consistent offensive players on this side of 2010, as he has consistently been the top receiver in the Saints’ system ever since he was drafted out of Ohio State University back in 2016. For some reason, Thomas fell to the 47th overall selection, and he has been able to prove his worth ever since that moment, especially as he was the sixth wide receiver taken in that same draft.
2019 Fantasy Statistics
His single-season record of 149 receptions parlayed themselves into 1,725 yards and 9 touchdowns, which, according to ESPN, made him outscore the second-highest scoring WR by a whopping 99 points in the 2019 season.
Nine games across the course of the final 12 games, Thomas finished as one of the five-best wide receivers, a perfect demonstration about just how dominant he is when he steps onto a football field. And while a 32.5 percent target share is next to near impossible to replicate, especially with the addition of Sanders as one of the most capable WR2 options in the league, you surely can count on Thomas to command the attention of both the opposing defense and the football.
In a standard full PPR league hosted by ESPN, Thomas put up double-digit scoring outputs every week except Week 17, when a four catch, 37-yard affair was what he put up against the Carolina Panthers. Thomas produced one 4o-plus point game (41.2 points against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on an 11/182/2 showing), and eight games of 25-plus fantasy points, including a stretch that, out of the final 10 games of the season, seven of those were 25-plus point scoring outings.
The 374.6 total point output seems like a bit of a reach for 2020, as does setting another single-season reception record. But if Thomas has done it before, he surely is capable of doing it again.
2020 Fantasy Projections
Surrounding Thomas is one of the better cores of weapons that has surrounded him in his first four years in the league, especially alongside him split out wide. Sanders, who has a bit of a checkered injury history following him through his trek through the NFL, looks to be the best option that has suited up alongside Thomas, which can help and hinder Thomas at the same time.
18 times is the number of times Sanders has suffered an injury in his NFL career, according to Sports Injury Predictor, Sanders has incurred some sort of injury, ranging from torn Achillies tendon in 2018 to multiple instances of foot issues (foot fracture, foot inflammation, ankle sprains, and ankle bruises). That is a lot for the former Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers receiver. But his veteran pedigree alone makes him a valuable addition to this team that seems to be one or two offensive pieces away from being that team in the NFC.
There has not been a WR2 for the Saints that has topped 70 targets since 2017, which ended up being Ted Ginn Jr’s 70-target season. In 2016, both Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead IV earned 100 targets each, and Kamara has amassed two seasons (since ‘16) of 100-plus targets, so the target shares have been quite spread around to help feed many different mouths on the team.
Cook’s role as the TE1 looks to be pretty solid, although his TD numbers will most likely drop a bit, especially with the addition of Sanders taking away from his goal-line targets. Having led the tight end group in the league with 11 end-zone targets (which was eighth-best across all offensive positions), Cook produced his second consecutive top-seven season fantasy-wise, after not having produced anything better than a top-12 finish.
Having produced only one receiving touchdown, five rushing touchdowns, and having missed two games in the ‘19 season – Kamara’s role, while solid, is primed for an injury-free bounceback this year. And if he runs into health concerns again, backup Latavius Murray is one of the best backup backs in the league that would instantly become an RB1 if Kamara were to miss time.
Projected for just under 200 rushing touches and 8 rushing TDs, the type of impact that Kamara will have in ‘20 should look eerily similar to his big years earlier in his career, and with a potential uptick in receptions, Thomas will most likely see a dip in his target share, which is certainly to be expected.
For Thomas, his ‘20 projections seem to be pretty cut and dry – 114 receptions, 1,351 yards, and 9 receiving touchdowns. Those numbers, if hit, would put him 35 targets and 374 yards under what he produced last year (same projected TD total as what he produced). Thomas’ numbers should absolutely decrease, which would help keep him fresher as the season progresses, and that downtick in stats should 100 percent be tied to needing to feed more mouths on the offense and not due to a shift in offensive schematic elements.
The offense is set up to maximize the current strengths of the team, which involves getting their playmakers out in space with the ball and letting them work. Both Thomas and Kamara are this team, and Brees is the conductor, and together they form one of the best offensive trios in the NFL.
Rank at Position
He is the cream of the crop, the creme de la creme, the cherry on the top of the ice cream sundae – he is what everyone wants to be but probably will never be.
Thomas has received some flak in the past about how he thrives off of slant and short routes to maximize his stat-sheet impact. And while he is a tactician when it comes to underneath routes, that is all a part of the game, and not something that he should be shamed for at all. For Thomas to be the guy that fills whatever leading role the Saints ask him to fill is all that he needs to do, and he has been doing it quite well ever since he entered the league.
There is nothing stopping Thomas from being the No. 1 receiver off of all fantasy football boards come late August and early September. And if a thought even manages to creep into your head about feeling that a WR like Julio Jones, Deandre Hopkins, Tyreek Hill, or Davante Adams should be picked above him, go back and check the stat line and confirm that his consistency is untouched and unmatched by his receiver counterparts all across the league, making your decision on draft day one of the easiest ones if you are sitting around picks four through seven (which is where he is being projected to fall, based on how the early run on running backs usually leads off most drafts).