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Expert Consensus Rantings: Michael Thomas (2021 Fantasy Football)

Jun 15, 2021
Expert Rantings Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas is getting overlooked in 2021 fantasy football drafts following a disastrous 2020 campaign.

Hey! Are we seriously going to let Michael Thomas be ranked 30th overall in the Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR)? For realsies?! We’re just going to sit here and let last year’s projected WR1 — still in the prime of his career, might I add — go as the WR12? All because of one bad year? COME ON, PEOPLE! THIS IS CRAZIER THAN MOUNTAIN DEW CREATING SPINOFF FLAVORS FOR BAJA BLAST! IT’S ALREADY A SPINOFF FLAVOR!! GAAAAH!!!

I can take some ECR injustices, especially given the fact that FantasyPros’ industry-leading ECR includes opinions from many of the world’s top fantasy football analysts. Who are we to question the collective knowledge of the stat gods?

Well, sometimes we need to keep them in check. Sometimes player rankings go too far in one direction. This is one of those times. Michael Thomas is being drastically underrated. He may not be the WR1, but he’s certainly not the WR12.

First, let me show you the fear behind his low ranking. Then, please allow me to shake my head in disgust for six minutes straight and tell you why those reasons are dead wrong.

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Why the Haters Are Hating

  • Drew Brees is gone! Oh no! Oh dear! This is worse than every time Bitcoin crashes! Anyway, this (fully anticipated) reality has caused many drafters to lose their minds. Apparently one of the NFL’s best rosters is nothing without a marshmallow-fluff-armed, 42-year-old, shell-of-what-he-used-to-be QB. Wild.
  • Injury. 2020 was brutal. Extremely brutal. Thomas only played in seven games last year while fighting through a high ankle sprain. He also had some interpersonal issues. Not great. He was drafted as the WR1 and finished as the WR103. Definitely not great.
  • The uncertainty of Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill being the next official starting QB for the Saints is a sign of the apocalypse. Or something like that. All I know for sure is that far too many analysts are using this uncertainty as an excuse to aggressively downgrade Michael Thomas.

There you have it. Thomas is ranked WR12 because he has some QB questions marks and was mostly injured in 2020. Please give me a moment to find my inner peace. This heinously wrong player ranking is causing me to rage-bleed from my corneas.

Here’s the deal: All of the reasons to hate on Thomas aren’t sufficient enough to rank him as the WR12. Here’s why.

Why the Haters Are Wrong

The QB Quandary
Brees is gone, but concerns of Thomas falling off a cliff with a new quarterback are, at best, severely overblown. In fact, Thomas’s best season was in 2019, when he had Teddy Bridgewater throwing to him for five games. The rest of that year, Brees played with an injured thumb on his throwing hand. The result of that season? Thomas set the NFL record for most receptions in a season. Should we really expect a dramatic drop-off with Hill or Winston slinging the rock?

Just last year, in four games with Hill under center, Thomas went 9/104/0, 4/50/0, 9/105/0, 8/84/0. His 16-game averages over that time would be 120/1372/0. That touchdown average is skewed, but the target and yardage averages are consistent with what we’ve come to expect from Thomas. In regards to the TD shortage last year, he’s scored nine, five, nine, nine, and zero TDs since joining the NFL in 2016. I wonder if playing only seven games had something to do with that anomaly.

We’re overthinking the QB uncertainty. It’s one thing to ask if Jordan Love can resemble a fraction of Aaron Rodgers, but both Winston and Hill have been in the NFL for a few years and are familiar with the New Orleans offense, coaching staff, and Thomas. Both were on the roster last year, and both have shown they can produce far above-average for fantasy purposes. Winston is a couple of years removed from a 5,000-plus yard passing season. Hill targeted Thomas often when starting last season. What’s uncertain about these two guys? Let’s cut the nonsense. Either will produce in this offense, and Thomas will be the better for it.

Injury Got You Down?
Thomas is 28 years old. He has only been in the league for five years, has a long-term contract, and specializes in intermediate routes. He’s not a speedster. Why are we pushing him down the board but still keeping Davante Adams, who also has an injury history and major QB concerns, as the WR1 or WR2? Does anyone else think that’s messed up?

Additionally, Saints head coach Sean Payton said Thomas is looking good in camp and the team is monitoring his ankle.

 

Think of it like this: If you’re willing to draft Saquon Barkley as a top-five player despite tearing his ACL last year, why doesn’t Thomas receive that same benefit of the doubt?

No Competition
Jared Cook and Emmanuel Sanders left town in the offseason. They were the top receiving targets outside of Alvin Kamara and Thomas. That’s 142 vacated targets.

In addition to having little competition for targets, the Saints are set up with the eighth-best strength of schedule for fantasy purposes, meaning they will face a host of manageable opponents this year. If there was ever a year to start a new QB, it would be against their 2021 competition.

Conclusion

You can either be scared of Michael Thomas, or you can see him as a value. Right now, he is the WR12 in ECR. However, his projected stats put him at the WR9 in standard leagues and at the WR5 in PPR leagues. So don’t be scared. Instead, be ready to draft him when others falter.

If Thomas stays healthy, he’s a league-winner. Here’s my prediction: Over a 17-game season, he finishes with 130 receptions, 1,400 yards, and eight TDs, finishing just outside the top-five WRs.

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Timothy Metzler is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Timothy, check out his archive or follow him @timmy_the_metz.

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