New Orleans Saints: Why Michael Thomas is the team’s most irreplaceable player
Is Thomas The Best Receiver In The NFL?
Even after his dominant 2019 season, Thomas was not seen by many as the best receiver in the NFL.
Some of this is due to poorly-drawn stereotypes against Thomas’ style of play; he is seen as someone who is only useful in the short passing game, primarily on slants. However, this is incorrect.
According to Josh Hermsmeyer of Five Thirty Eight, Thomas has generated more expected points added (EPA) per play than Falcons’ Julio Jones, considered by many to be the best receiver in the NFL.
Thomas may get a lot of targets, but a lot of that has to due with the separation. The same cannot be said for D’Andre Hopkins, who ranked last on Hermsmeyer’s list on separation over expectation in the intermediate passing game.
Thus, if Thomas is seen as a limited player, shouldn’t Hopkins be held in the same regard?
Tyreek Hill is not only an incredible deep threat, but an overall dynamic receiver. At the same time, he also has yet to have over 87 receptions in a season, meaning his style of play is more volatile; he and Thomas are different, so it comes down to preference.
Additionally, Davante Adams has been exceptional for the Packers this season, but he has just one other season with 1000+ receiving yards in his six-game career, and that’s while playing in a pass-heavy attack in Green Bay with a star quarterback in Aaron Rodgers.
So, who is the best receiver in the NFL? Ultimately, there isn’t necessarily a right answer. Jones has the most impressive track record, but he also is 31-years-old and has dealt with multiple injuries in recent seasons.
Hopkins, meanwhile, is ultra-productive, but is the worst separator of the “elite five”. Separation may not be an issue for Adams, yet his track record is more limited, while Hill’s consistency is his largest question mark.
As much as I love big-play threats, Thomas’ consistency still puts him a notch over the other elite receivers, in my opinion. As we’ll get into, said consistency is something the Saints cannot survive without.