New Orleans Saints wide receiver, Michael Thomas, is one of the hottest topics coming into the upcoming Fantasy Football season. With the team parting ways with wide receiver Brandin Cooks, everyone is wondering if Thomas can step up into that WR1 role.
In 2016, Thomas’ rookie season, he finished as WR7 in PPR leagues and WR9 in standard leagues, which classified him as a WR1. That is impressive, especially for a rookie. Thomas finished the season with 92 receptions, 1,137 yards, and nine touchdowns. All in which came on 122 targets. I’ll say it again, this is impressive, especially for a rookie. Now the question is, how does Brandin Cooks’ departure affect Michael Thomas’ fantasy outlook? Cooks finished the season with 78 receptions, 1,173 yards, and eight touchdowns. All with 117 targets, which is just five less targets than Thomas.
At first glance, you might think that Cooks’ departure means that Thomas is set for an even bigger year than last. However, some receivers flourish better when they have another great receiver on field.
An example of this can be seen in Brandon Marshall’s 2015-16 season compared to his 2016-17 season.
In 2015, Jets wide receiver, Brandon Marshall, finished with 109 receptions, 1,502 yards, and a whopping 14 touchdowns. Marshall’s counterpart, Eric Decker, finished the season with 80 receptions, 1,027 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
On the other hand, in 2016, Decker went down in week 2 and ultimately needed season-ending shoulder surgery. With this being said, Marshall finished the season with a disappointing 59 receptions, 788 yards, and three touchdowns. We should keep in mind that Jets quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, was not very good and that Marshall was another year older at 32 years of age. Nonetheless, Marshall played significantly better when Decker was on the gridiron with him.
Now the question is, does Michael Thomas NEED Brandin Cooks?
The answer is no.
Last year, Thomas caught 76% of his targets, which was third best in the league. This year, all of Cooks’ 117 targets will go elsewhere and Thomas will be reaping the rewards. Not to mention, Drew Brees is still one of the best in the business and the Saints offense is among the most dangerous and high-octane in the league.
As of now, Thomas is going mid-second round to early third round in standard 12-team mock drafts, which is right where he belongs. Personally, there are a few people I’d take before him, such as Amari Cooper, but if Thomas is available in the third round, I’m swiping him without hesitation.