Game-By-Game Projections: Michael Thomas (2020 Fantasy Football)
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Michael Thomas exploded to set a new NFL record with 149 receptions in 2019. While he may have a tough time matching that total in 2020, there is no denying that he will remain one of the top receivers in the entire NFL. A fantasy football superstar being drafted early in the first round, determining what level of success Thomas may have this season is critical for fantasy owners willing to take the round one plunge. Season-long projections provide a snapshot, but our goal here is to provide a game by game projection breakdown to help fantasy owners make more informed decisions.
Week 1: New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Michael Thomas should start the season on fire. While recent events may have affected the off-field chemistry between Drew Brees and Michael Thomas, their on-field rapport should remain unchanged. They are both professionals playing with a singular goal in mind. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers declined to upgrade their young cornerback group this offseason, something that will no doubt haunt them when they play Thomas twice this season. The on-field talent suggests that this will be one of the highest-scoring games of Week 1, with Thomas leading the way for the Saints as a chain mover and all-around playmaker.
Predicted stat line: 11 targets, eight receptions, 141 receiving yards, one touchdown (24.1 fantasy points)
Week 2: New Orleans Saints @ Las Vegas Raiders
While the Las Vegas Raiders did go out and add Prince Amukamara to a cornerback group that was set to start sophomore Travyon Mullen and rookie Damon Arnette on the outside, there is simply no one on the roster capable of stopping Michael Thomas. Sean Payton will be sure to put Thomas in motion to exploit potential matchups, which should lead to a big first half. He should quiet down in the third and fourth quarters with the Saints moving to more of a ball control, rushing offense to salt away the clock.
Predicted stat line: nine targets, seven receptions, 95 receiving yards (13 fantasy points)
Week 3: New Orleans Saints vs. Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers could force this contest into a shootout in Week 3, which could mean good things for Michael Thomas. Green Bay will make a concerted effort to contain Michael Thomas, but he should still get loose for a big gain or two. He should find the end zone at least once in this contest, which will help cap what looks to be an excellent fantasy outing. His stat line could be even bigger in the yardage department if Emmanuel Sanders has started clicking with Drew Brees in time for this matchup.
Predicted stat line: 10 targets, nine receptions, 110 receiving yards, one touchdown (20.5 fantasy points)
Week 4: New Orleans Saints @ Detroit Lions
New Orleans should have a relatively easy time dispatching the Detroit Lions. The contest should be competitive for most of the first half, but New Orleans should start pulling away in the late second. Jeffrey Okudah is a future lockdown corner but will have an extremely tough time trying to stop a player many consider to be the best wide receiver in the league in just the fourth game of his career. Projected game flow suggests that New Orleans will not need to lean on Thomas much after the first quarter, something that could lead to a relatively disappointing final stat line.
Predicted stat line: seven targets, six receptions, 65 receiving yards, one touchdown (15.5 fantasy points)
Week 5: New Orleans Saints vs. Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers have a talented cornerback trio, but both Chris Harris Jr. and Desmond King are best suited for the slot. Neither can stick with Michael Thomas on the outside and outside corner, Casey Hayward is going to have just as tough of a time handling what may be full-time duties. Thomas should be heavily involved until the Saints build a big enough lead, but the presence of Derwin James may limit him in the yards after the catch department on intermediate and deep throws.
Predicted stat line: 10 targets, nine receptions, 102 receiving yards (14.7 fantasy points)
Week 7: New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers
The New Orleans Saints should have their way with the Carolina Panthers in Week 7. Carolina is essentially going through a rebuild on the defensive end, and despite some impact rookie additions, they are going to have a tough time dealing with the losses of Luke Kuechly and James Bradberry. The Panthers will be more potent offensively by this point of the season and should be able to keep the contest close enough for the Saints to keep their foot on the gas.
Predicted stat line: 11 targets, eight receptions, 95 receiving yards (13.5 fantasy points)
Week 8: New Orleans Saints @ Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears secondary is going to have a hard time stopping Michael Thomas in Week 8. Thomas should have a rock-solid day, and one you would happily take from almost any other wide receiver. While the 85 receiving yards may be a disappointing projection, he should see at least six receptions (projected for seven) and a touchdown. Chicago should have bracket coverage on Thomas all afternoon, something that should keep his yards after the catch to a minimum.
Predicted stat line: 11 targets, seven receptions, 85 receiving yards, one touchdown (18 fantasy points)
Week 9: New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 9 should be another shootout for the New Orleans Saints. Tampa Bay should be firing on all cylinders by their second matchup with the Saints and will understand that scoring early and often is their only path to victory. The Saints run game could have some issues with Tampa Bay’s front seven, something that should lead to big days from Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jared Cook.
Predicted stat line: 13 targets, 11 receptions, 157 receiving yards, one touchdown (27.2 fantasy points)
Week 10: New Orleans Saints vs. San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers will wisely do everything in their power to slow down Michael Thomas in Week 10. He is going to be even harder to stop with a legitimate wide receiver across from him, but Robert Saleh will likely have specific coverage schemes ready for Thomas regardless of where he lines up in the formation. He may have a disappointing outing by his standards, but the projected touchdown will save his fantasy stat line. Unless the 49ers are unable to get anything going on the ground, the New Orleans Saints should have fewer pass attempts in this contest than usual.
Predicted stat line: nine targets, six receptions, 89 receiving yards, one touchdown (17.9 fantasy points)
Week 11: New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons
Michael Thomas is set to explode in Week 11 against the Atlanta Falcons. A.J. Terell is a good prospect but was another first-round reach for the Falcons front office. He will be wholly unable to stop Michael Thomas, and the Falcons have no one else currently on the roster with more talent than the rookie. Safety help will be key in their efforts to slow Thomas down, but his route running acumen and ability to work underneath will keep him heavily involved in the offense. The Falcons offense will be explosive enough to go tit-for-tat and should allow for a game script that calls for both teams to air it out at will.
Predicted stat line: 15 targets, 12 receptions, 132 receiving yards, one touchdown (25.2 fantasy points)
Week 12: New Orleans Saints @ Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos have no one capable of slowing Michael Thomas down in Week 12. A.J. Bouye may shadow Thomas but should get roasted regularly. Denver has the explosive offense to turn this contest into a shootout, but the Saints are more likely to clamp down on defense and keep Drew Lock in check. In this scenario, the Saints will turn to the run in the second half, limiting their overall pass attempts for the game, and as a result, Thomas’ stat line.
Predicted stat line: seven targets, five receptions, 75 receiving yards (10 fantasy points)
Week 13: New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons will be a team for fantasy owners to target all season, and the Week 13 meeting between the Saints and the Falcons will be no different. Atlanta should be able to keep this contest competitive enough for the Saints to keep their foot on the gas, something that should help lead Thomas to a fantasy-friendly stat line. Thomas should see at least 11 targets and eight receptions but may have an even bigger yardage total than that posited below.
Predicted stat line: 11 targets, eight receptions, 112 receiving yards, one touchdown (21.2 fantasy points)
Week 14: New Orleans Saints @ Philadelphia Eagles
Another week, another tasty matchup for Michael Thomas. The New Orleans Saints 2020 schedule appears set to do fantasy managers a lot of favors during the stretch run and the fantasy playoffs, making Thomas all the more attractive as fantasy football’s undisputed WR1. Darius Slay does give the Eagles a massive upgrade in coverage, but the Saints will likely keep Thomas in motion pre-snap to ensure that he can pick up important yardage when needed.
Predicted stat line: 13 targets, 10 receptions, 125 receiving yards, one touchdown (23.5 fantasy points)
Week 15: New Orleans Saints vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 15’s contest between the New Orleans Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs could sport one of the highest over/under totals of the season. While Michael Thomas should have a strong game, the absence of a projected touchdown will hurt his overall fantasy scoring line. Kansas City is likely to make a point of putting Tyrann Mathieu or Juan Thornhill in bracket coverage on Michael Thomas for the majority of his snaps, essentially forcing Drew Brees to spread the ball around more than usual in a game where he logs 40+ pass attempts. Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook, and Emmanuel Sanders should all be heavily involved in the passing game against the Chiefs.
Predicted stat line: nine targets, six receptions, 99 receiving yards (12.9 fantasy points)
Week 16: New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings
Week 16 projects to be an important matchup as far as seeding in the NFC is concerned. The Vikings added some impact rookie cornerbacks, but neither will be capable of truly slowing down Michael Thomas. Jeff Gladney will likely get the Thomas assignment in Week 16 but will have his hands full against one of the game’s elite wideouts. Thomas should be able to snare most of his targets and post a strong overall stat line. He could have a much bigger day if Minnesota falls behind early and is forced to abandon their clock control offense. However, even if the Vikings run the ball 30 times for the day, Michael Thomas should be option 1a and 1b in what Drew Brees will no doubt view as an exploitable matchup.
Predicted stat line: 13 targets, 10 receptions, 121 receiving yards, one touchdown (23.1 fantasy points)
Week 17: New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers
The New Orleans Saints will face the Carolina Panthers in Week 17 for the second straight season. While the NFL will shuffle the schedule deck to ensure that all games with playoff implications start at the same time, scoreboard watching will allow the Saints to rest their starters in the second half of this contest. They should have the second or third seed locked up by about 2:30 EST in the afternoon, and should shift to preservation mode by that point. Thomas should have his most disappointing outing of the season in Week 17, but luckily the fantasy football playoffs will already be over.
Predicted stat line: six targets, four receptions, 77 receiving yards (9.7 fantasy points)
2020 Season Totals
Full season projection: 159 targets, 126 receptions, 1,680 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns (283 fantasy points)
Michael Thomas is the fantasy WR1 for a very good reason, but as these projections suggest he may very well take a step back from his record-breaking 2019. Alvin Kamara should be back to 100 percent, and for the first time since 2016, the Saints finally have a legitimate number two wideout in Emmanuel Sanders. This should lead to a slight reduction in target share, targets, and catch rate.
The reduction in target share and overall targets is due to having a healthy Kamara and Sanders to pitch in on underneath work. His catch rate may take a slight hit as he may see a higher percentage of deeper patterns, which could in turn lead to a lower percentage of targets deemed catchable.
As you can see from the projections above, he is projected to finish with just 45 less receiving yards than he posted last season, while increasing his touchdown total to 10. He will be able to do this due to an increase in his average depth of target.
He is projected to record fewer fantasy points than the 300.1 he posted last season, but the 283 projected points would have still made him the 2019 WR1 by a comfortable margin. The toast of the 2020 wide receiver position, Michael Thomas is set to once again finish as fantasy football’s number one overall receiver.