New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas was one of the biggest fantasy football busts in 2020, and heading into this season, he’ll literally be on one leg. But if he’s still available late in your draft, the reward far outweighs the risk.
Who doesn’t love a good comeback story? Fantasy managers certainly do, so big names with high bounce-back potential often get factored into draft day decisions.
Thomas was the undisputed No. 1 fantasy WR in 2020 following his record-breaking 2019 season, but he finished 2020 with just 40 catches for 438 yards in seven games. His fantasy stock plummeted then, and with his situation in 2021 looking a bit too much like déjà vu, no wonder some fantasy managers won’t go near him.
Injuries usually mark a fantasy player with a massive red flag with the words “Stay as far away as possible,” but when it’s an elite pass-catching target like Thomas? You’d have to be crazy not to consider him.
Given Thomas’ surgery timeline, the best-case scenario is he returns in late September, and the worst case is he returns in late October. Assuming the latter, Thomas wouldn’t take the field until the Saints’ bye in Week 6, which means he’ll miss the first five games. At least.
Thomas faced recurring issues with his ankle last year, and even when he returned from missed games he wasn’t the same player as before. He’s been stamped as “compromised” and to many, his future in 2021 looks break.
New Orleans Saints: Michael Thomas has highest upside in middle to late rounds
These are the facts: Michael Thomas is injured. He will not reproduce his 2019 numbers in these conditions.
But Thomas still provides incredible value as a late round pick, and while he’s by no means a top ten fantasy WR at this point, his past greatness and potential for greatness in 2021 makes him, in our book, a coveted pick nonetheless.
Fantasy managers will be quick to point out the Saints don’t have Drew Brees anymore, and a combination of current starter Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas could fizzle out, especially if Winston starts throwing a pick or more every game.
It’s true, New Orleans don’t have Brees, but that’s exactly where Thomas’ upside lies. This Saints offense got a nearly unrecognizable makeover this offseason, and Thomas could absolutely explode with Winston at the helm.
Brees struggled throwing the ball deep late in his career. Winston continues to struggle with consistency, but he already proved his arm strength in preseason games when he found Callaway far downfield.
Imagine, for a moment, a consistent-Winston-healthy-Thomas partnership. That duo would blow up the league and pretty much ensure the Saints make the playoffs this year. Such high-flying dreams rarely turn out the way we want them to, but just think of the upside. Thomas’ potential will be far greater than any other sixth or seventh round pick, that’s for sure.
One analyst’s projections for Thomas are slated for “around 90-95 targets with 70 receptions, 820-840 yards, and 4-5 touchdowns,” assuming that he plays 10 games. That’s not bad at all, though Thomas could easily swing either way: toward complete failure or toward unrivaled success.
If you’re in the middle of your fantasy draft and the clock is ticking, Thomas won’t provide any guarantees for your team, but he could prove he’s well worth the risk.