Michael Thomas is the No. 1 wide receiver for the Saints
Those injuries that the Saints dealt with last season that were referred to in the introduction? Look no further than Michael Thomas, who played in just seven games last season due to a multitude of injuries, and even then, was never fully healthy. His 62.6 yards per game were a career-low, as were his 5.7 receptions per game,11 yards/reception, and eight yards/target.
Fortunately for the Saints, Thomas should be fully healthy in 2021. If so, we’re talking about a receiver who broke the receptions record in 2019, and also totaled over 3,000 receiving yards in consecutive All-Pro seasons. In other words, assuming he’s healthy, he’s far from a concern for the Saints. In fact, his presence as an elite No. 1 receiver may be the team’s saving grace.
The one question mark with Thomas is how will he adjust to a much different quarterback? With Brees, he was used much more as an intermediate threat; his average depth of target never was over 10 yards. However, Winston takes much more chances down the field, meaning that Thomas will be utilized much differently.
However, there is nothing to suggest that Thomas won’t succeed in a more downfield role. First, there’s his contested catch ability. His 63.3% contested catch rate in 2019 ranked fourth in the NFL, and over his time in the NFL, he’s been truly elite in that regard:
Although not a burner, Thomas is a nuanced route runner who has no trouble gaining separation, in addition to his prowess with contested catches. Even then, Winston’s success with Evans as a contested-catch target down the field was exceptional, so if that’s Thomas’ role, the duo should flourish together. Rather, the questions are with the rest of the receiving corps.