Michael Thomas will return to the football field with the New Orleans Saints in 2022 after missing the entire 2021 season with an ankle injury. Thomas played proportionately throughout the 2020 season as well, meaning this is the first time we’ve really seen him in action since 2019, a season in which Thomas put together one of the most dominant campaigns in NFL history for a wide receiver.
Thomas’ return to the field is one of the most exciting stories in the NFL as training camp opens. The Saints have struggled to overcome the loss of one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and getting him back should help their offensive production increase dramatically this season.
As for Thomas’ own production, there are still plenty of question marks. After all, we haven’t seen him on the field for a year and a half, and during that time there have been a lot of changes in the Saints’ offense. So how productive will Thomas be for fantasy owners this upcoming season? Let’s take a closer look.
Michael Thomas’ 2022 Fantasy Football Outlook
When he’s on the field, it’s hard to find a better receiver than Michael Thomas. His 2019 season was one of the best in NFL history (149 REC, 1725 YDS, 9 TD), and in it he broke the record for most receptions in a season. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen Thomas approach those heights since.
But Thomas will be back on the field in 2022 and ready to reclaim his spot atop the Saints’ receiver depth chart. It remains to be seen if he can reach the level he was at in 2019. Thomas has missed a lot of time over the past two seasons, and that is currently clouding his fantasy football status.
There were also a lot of changes in the New Orleans offense. Drew Brees is gone and Jameis Winston is the new guy in town. The drop in production from Brees to Winston is significant and could have a huge impact on Thomas’ production this upcoming season.
New Orleans also has a ton of targets for Winston to throw to in the passing game. Behind Thomas, 2022 first-round pick Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry round out the wide receiver depth. Alvin Kamara is also one of the most dangerous pass-catching backs in the league, and even if he is suspended for an arrest back in February, his backup Mark Ingram II is also a solid receiver.
All these guys are going to take away targets from Thomas. In each of his first four seasons, Thomas had at least 120 targets on the road, and his 185 in 2019 was his high. Chances are he won’t hit that total again given all the help he has around him, but he could hit 120 targets if he plays all 17 games this season.
Thomas will be the Saints’ best option in the passing game, and having all this help with him will make the opening that much easier. But Thomas’ fantasy football depends on himself. Will he be the same player he was before the extended layoff? Missing two seasons can be very damaging, and it’s worth noting that Thomas is now 29 years old heading into the 2022 season. Basically, he just lost two seasons in his prime.
Chances are Thomas still made it, but it’s foolish to expect him to pick up where he left off. He enters an offense that has changed drastically since he last took the field, and he will have to get used to playing alongside Winston and co. than Brees. It will take time, but that’s what training camp is for.
Thomas has a lot of question marks surrounding him, but it’s hard to think of 30 wide receivers who will be better than him in 2022. If he can establish himself as the guy for the Saints early and develop chemistry with Winston, Thomas will be in a good place moving forward. But no one really knows what to expect from Thomas right out of the gate, which lowers his stock. Thomas’ ceiling is like a WR1, but he is closer to a WR2/FLEX option heading into the season.
Many people are excited about Thomas’ return to the court, which may lead to him being drafted earlier than he should be. Thomas probably shouldn’t be drafted earlier than the seventh round, but if he gets to the 10th or 11th round, it’s too late and he needs to be drafted. Chances are, Michael Thomas will be gone sooner than he should be given the hype surrounding his return, but if he starts to fall down the board, he’d be a fantastic low-cost candidate given the WR1 potential attached to his name.
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