Michael Thomas
Michael Thomas
28-Year-Old Wide ReceiverWR
New Orleans Saints
PUP-R
Injury Ankle
Est. Return 10/25/2021
2021 Fantasy Outlook
What a disastrous season for last year's consensus top wide receiver. It started with a Week 1 high-ankle sprain that lingered into October, then Thomas was suspended for punching a teammate in Week 5, injured a hamstring along the way and didn't return until Week 9. After posting two 100-yard games with backup Taysom Hill at quarterback, Thomas aggravated his ankle and missed the season's final three games. He returned for the playoffs, with moderate success against the Bears before being shut out completely by the Buccaneers. After the season, Thomas had surgeries on his left ankle and shoulder, revealing he was never truly healthy all year. Prior to 2020, Thomas was the all-time leader in catch percentage by a mile and had just set the record for catches in a season with 149. From 2018-19, Thomas had an absurd 274 catches and averaged nearly 9.5 yards per target, despite ranking near the bottom of the league in aDOT. That's what happens when you catch virtually every pass thrown in your direction. At 6-3, 212, Thomas is big, rangy and athletic, but he's not fast (4.57 40), reeling in only seven 40-yard catches in his four-and-a-half-year career. Thomas runs precise routes, finds soft spots in zones and has excellent hands - he's the ultimate chain mover and possession target. That is, he was with Drew Brees (the completion percentage and accuracy king) under center. With Brees hanging it up, Thomas is a long shot to keep up his historic catch rate, but one should be careful not to regress him too much. Sean Payton's system is still intact, and Thomas, who had two 100-yard games with Hill while playing injured, was also effective in 2019 with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback for seven games, i.e., in the long run Thomas should be fine even if Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill aren't great. That said, it remains to be seen when the star wideout will see his first game action in 2021. After undergoing an ankle procedure in June, Thomas was placed on the PUP list to start the season, ruling him out for at least the first five games and six weeks (the Saints have a Week 6 bye). Read Past Outlooks
RANKS
$Signed a five-year, $96.25 million contract with the Saints in July of 2019.
Shifts back to reserve/PUP list
WRNew Orleans Saints
Ankle
September 25, 2021
Thomas (illness/ankle) was removed from the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday. He's still on the reserve/PUP list, Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football reports.
ANALYSIS
Thomas was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier in September after a number of Saints coaches tested positive for the virus. Given the star wideout was already expected to miss the first six weeks of the season while recovering from June ankle surgery, the designation shouldn't dramatically change his recovery time. Thomas is first eligible to return Oct. 25 against the Seahawks following the team's Week 6 bye.
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Snap Distribution / Depth Chart
Snap Counts
Snap %
New Orleans SaintsSaints 2021 WR Snap Distribution See more data like this | See last season's snap counts
#% of Team Snaps

847%
484%
423%
292%
292%
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Receiving Alignment Breakdown
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This Week's Opposing Pass Defense
How does the Patriots pass defense compare to other NFL teams this season?
The bars represents the team's percentile rank (based on QB Rating Against). The longer the bar, the better their pass defense is. The team and position group ratings only include players that are currently on the roster and not on injured reserve. The list of players in the table only includes defenders with at least 3 attempts against them.
NE
@ Patriots
Sunday, Sep 26th at 1:00PM
Overall QB Rating Against
38.6
 
Cornerbacks
32.9
 
Safeties
42.8
 
Linebackers
81.8
 
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2021 Michael Thomas Split Stats
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
2020
2019
2018
2017
2016
After smashing the catch-percentage record in 2018, Thomas took down bigger prey last year, breaking Marvin Harrison's single-season receptions record and winning Offensive Player of the Year in the process. Thomas maintained his otherworldly catch rate (80.5 percent, second all time only to his 2018 mark) and averaged 9.3 YPT, eighth among the league's 30 100-target WRs, despite playing six games with a backup QB and seeing a massive bump in targets (185, 1st). Thomas' 1,725 receiving yards were also good for seventh in the record book. At 6-3, 212, Thomas has excellent size, runs precise routes and might have the best hands in the league. His rapport with Drew Brees is off the charts, and no player is more reliable at catching short passes and moving the chains. Thomas also led the league in red-zone targets (26) and scored nine times (T-4th), but he doesn't have deep speed (4.57 40) and isn't likely to make the big play - only three catches of 40-plus yards last year and seven in his four-year career. Despite leading the NFL in targets by a wide margin - he had 28 more than No. 2 Julio Jones - Thomas was merely tied for ninth in catches of 20 or more yards (17). Thomas' average depth of target (aDOT) was 8.1 yards (24th), and his 11.6 YPC ranked 23rd among 30 100-target WRs. Bottom line, with Drew Brees set to return in 2020, Thomas is arguably the safest pick on the draft board. He's 27, has missed only one game in his career (in 2016) and relies on short receptions from the NFL's all-time leader in completion percentage.
Why do we have a player who had only 147 targets (11th) and 11.2 YPC (27th) ranked so high? Because Thomas caught a preposterous 85 percent of the passes thrown his way, giving him 125 receptions last year, the fifth most in NFL history. To put Thomas' season in perspective, consider there have been only 44 100-target wide receiver seasons in NFL history where a player caught even 70 percent of his looks. At 75 percent, that number drops to 11, and the all-time record for catch percentage before 2018 was Wes Welker's 77.2 in 2007. It's as though someone broke Randy Moss' single-season TD record (23) by scoring 30. Of course, we should expect some regression from an all-time outlier season even though Thomas plays with the completion-percentage king Drew Brees, who broke his own record with 74.4 percent in 2018. At 6-3, 212, Thomas has good size but below-average speed - 4.57 40 at the 2016 combine. He's an excellent route runner with good hands, but he's not running a lot of deep routes - his average depth of target was only 7.7 yards, last among the league's 100-target wideouts. As a result, he had only two catches of 40-plus yards and 17 of 20-plus (T-16th.) Thomas is used heavily in the red zone, however, with 29 targets inside the 20 (T-2nd), 14 inside the 10 (T-2nd) and eight inside the five (T-3rd.) Accordingly, he should again be a reliable source of TDs, even if he rarely scores from long range. The biggest concern for Thomas is probably his quarterback. Brees turned 40 in January, and he tailed off somewhat over the season's final six games including the playoffs, failing to crack 8.5 YPA in any of those contests and throwing only seven TDs and six picks over that span. Still, Brees had a tremendous overall regular season (8.2 YPA, 32 TDs and five picks), and Thomas is his clear top target and first red-zone look even with tight end Jared Cook now in the fold.
With Brandin Cooks in New England, Thomas was set to be the No. 1 receiver for the league's most prolific passing offense. But something strange happened: the Saints became a running team. It wasn't all bad. Thomas still had 149 targets (6th), 104 catches (3rd) and 1,245 yards (6th). But he scored four fewer TDs than in 2016 on three fewer red-zone targets, as tailback Mark Ingram doubled his rushing TDs from six to 12, and all-purpose back Alvin Kamara added 13 scores of his own. At 6-3, 212, Thomas has good size but below-average speed (4.57). He's a good route runner with steady hands, but he's not going to beat anyone deep - only one catch of 40-plus yards last year, two in his two-year career. Despite throwing less often, Drew Brees still attacks in the intermediate and deep areas of the field - Thomas was fourth with 22 catches of 20-plus - but speedster Ted Ginn was the home run hitter with five catches of 40 or more yards. Accordingly, Thomas' 8.4 YPT mark was a modest 11th among the league's 27 100-target receivers, despite playing with the QB who led the NFL in YPA at 8.1. (By contrast Ginn had 11.2 YPT.) Heading into 2018, Thomas is still the team's undisputed No. 1 target and should be drafted for volume and consistency. Just don't expect many big plays or an undue share of red-zone work, as Kamara and Ingram figure to again occupy a large share of the team's usage.
Few rookie wideouts pan out as their team's No. 1 targets. Thomas was an exception -- so much so that after the season, the Saints jettisoned their former top receiver Brandin Cooks for a first-round pick. At 6-3, 212 and with 4.57 speed, Thomas is athletically on the cusp of what's typically required for a bona fide No. 1, but he's surprisingly agile and quick for a tall receiver and has excellent hands and good ball skills. Most importantly he has the trust of Drew Brees from whom he caught an unheard-of 76 percent of his 121 targets. Thomas also saw a fair amount of red-zone work last year (19 targets, T-11th) despite missing a game, and his size and hands make him well-suited to operate there -- seven of Thomas' nine scores came on red-zone throws. Thomas isn't a major downfield weapon -- only one catch of 40-plus yards, and his 12.4 YPC average was pedestrian. (His 9.4 YPT was fifth best, but driven entirely by his absurd catch rate.) Even with Cooks gone it's unlikely Thomas will see the deep balls left behind. While Willie Snead (4.56 40) is suited more to a possession role, the team added home run specialist Ted Ginn to run those routes, so Thomas' target depth should remain roughly the same. While Thomas might not be a game-breaker, he's a quality intermediate target, red-zone threat and top option in a Drew Brees-led offense.
Drafted 47th overall, Thomas has a chance for a significant role as a rookie with long-time Saint Marques Colston no longer around. While Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks should start, both are small and not especially useful in the red zone. At 6-3, 212, Thomas is tall, athletic and agile. He's not fast - 4.57 40 - but he has good hands, solid ball skills and scored 18 TDs the last two seasons at Ohio State. Tight end Coby Fleener will also see red-zone work, and 6-6 Brandon Coleman should make the team, but Thomas is the favorite for the No. 3 receiver job.
More Fantasy News
Shifts to reserve/COVID-19 list
WRNew Orleans Saints
Ankle
September 14, 2021
Thomas (ankle) was transferred from the reserve/PUP list to the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, Field Yates of ESPN reports. He tested positive for the virus, according to Aaron Wilson of Sportstalk 790 Houston.
ANALYSIS
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Officially on reserve/PUP list
WRNew Orleans Saints
Ankle
August 31, 2021
Thomas (ankle) was moved to the reserve/PUP list Tuesday.
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Likely headed for PUP list
WRNew Orleans Saints
Ankle
August 31, 2021
Thomas (ankle) likely will be placed on the PUP list, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.
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Ahead of schedule
WRNew Orleans Saints
Ankle
August 16, 2021
Coach Sean Payton said Thomas (ankle) is ahead of schedule in his rehab from June surgery, Luke Johnson of The Times-Picayune reports.
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On trading block?
WRNew Orleans Saints
Ankle
August 13, 2021
The Saints could be open to trading Thomas (ankle), Larry Holder of The Athletic reports.
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