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Is Michael Thomas the Best Pick at No.5?



By Steve Schwarz | 6/18/20

Michael Thomas

Itís the middle of the first round in your PPR draft and four star running backs are already off the board (Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara and Ezekiel Elliott), but you say to yourself, I can still get last yearís No.1 receiver, so life is pretty good, right?

Maybe not.

Although Michael Thomasí current ADP places him as the next guy to go, he may not perform up to your expectations. Coming off his 149-catch, 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns (23.4 FPts/G) in 2019 fantasy owners would obviously like/expect/demand a repeat performance, but based on recent history, that isnít likely. In fact, itís only about a 20-percent chance.

If you look at the chart below, I analyzed every receiver who saw at least 185 targets over the past 10 seasons.

There were 10 such wide receivers who saw the required number of targets and only two managed to duplicate, or better, their production. In 2013 Calvin Johnson matched his fantasy production from the previous season and in 2015 Antonio Brown actually increased his output. In the other eight instances, there were decreases of as much as 42% with the average drop being 17.72%.

So, would you still select Thomas at No.5 if you knew he would only score 19.25 FPts/G which the percentages say is 80-percent likely?

Factors that might be cause for this reduction in output Ö

The Saints signed a quality wide receiver in Emmanuel Sanders to play across from Thomas. Sanders has posted at least 850 yards on just under 100 targets in each of the past two seasons. By contrast, New Orleans hasnít had a No.2 wideout see more than 70 targets in the last three seasons (Ted Ginn Jr.), who was second on the team last season with just 56 targets. Sanders has produced as much as 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns in his best season (2014) and could steal a significant portion of Thomasí thunder.

Meanwhile, tight end Jared Cook had a career-best 8.9 FPts/G in his first season with Drew Brees. Saints tight ends have been getting more work the past three seasons, seeing 62 targets in 2017, 89 in 2018 and 100 last season.

Brees is 41-years-old. Old bones and muscles donít recover as quickly. He missed five games last season, the most since 2003. Brees hasnít thrown more than 32 touchdowns in three seasons.

In addition, Kamara was playing injured for much of last season. Despite catching more than 80 balls for the third consecutive season, his yards-per-reception dropped from 10.1 in his rookie season to 6.6 yards in 2019. His yards-after-contact dropped from 8.51 in 2017 to 7.0 in 2019. If healthy, heíll take up a larger percentage of the Saints offense.

Factors for Thomas reproducing his career-best 23.4 FPts/G Ö

If ďold manĒ Brees goes down again, the Saints have a better passer off the bench in Jameis Winston. Although Teddy Bridgewater was 5-0 in five starts, Thomas was held below his season average in four of five games. Winston can throw the ball a lot better than Bridgewater as his 5,109 passing yards in 2019 will attest.

Other than Thomas and Sanders, New Orleans wide receiver corps has very few well-known options which include; TreíQuan Smith (18 receptions last season), Deonte Harris (6), Austin Carr (1) and LilíJordan Humphrey (0).

If not Thomas, then who?

Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, DeAndre Hopkins or Julio Jones? Or perhaps one of the up-and-coming running backs Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, Josh Jacobs or Aaron Jones? Maybe veteran Derrick Henry or Nick Chubb?

I think Hopkins is a slightly better option. The new Cardinals receiver has averaged 19.8 FPts/G over the past three seasons in Houston. After the trade, heíll be motivated to show Houston how wrong they were to get rid of him. Hopkins comes to an Arizona team that yielded 442 points last season (28th of 32) and was a net -81 points, so will likely be playing plenty of catch-up. He has a young star-in-the-making at quarterback (Kyler Murray) and heíll automatically become the No.1 receiver over aging Larry Fitzgerald and youngster Christian Kirk.

Adams didnít score a touchdown until Week 12. Despite that and missing four full games, he still averaged 17.7 FPts/G. Over the offseason, Packers management failed to help quarterback Aaron Rodgersí offense, drafting a backup quarterback and a backup running back, but no receivers. Which means we should be hearing a lot of Rodgers-to-Adams again next season.

Cook averaged 21.2 FPts/G last season despite missing time due to a shoulder injury. He recorded career highs in rushing attempts (250), rushing yards (1,135), TDs (13), targets (63), receptions (53) and receiving yards (519). The issue for not picking Cook is heís currently in the final season of his four-year rookie deal that vastly underpays him and he is holding out for a McCaffrey-type deal ($16 million yearly) while the team has apparently offered in the $10 million range. A late draft day will help in knowing Cookís fate, but if heís playing hard he could be a better value.

Iím quite sure picking Michael Thomas wonít kill your fantasy lineup, but he might not give you as much production as you are hoping to get at the fifth pick.

 Receivers with 185 or more targets since 2010
Year WR Games Tgts Rec Yds TDs FPts/G Variance
2019 Michael Thomas 16 185 149 1725 9 23.4
2020 ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
2015 Julio Jones 16 203 136 1871 8 23.2
2016 14 129 83 1409 6 18.6 -19.83
2015 Antonio Brown 16 193 136 1834 10 23.9
2016 15 154 106 1284 12 20.5 -14.23
2015 DeAndre Hopkins 16 192 111 1521 11 20.6
2016 16 151 78 954 4 12.3 -40.30
2014 Antonio Brown 16 181 129 1698 13 23.6
2015 16 193 136 1834 10 23.9 1.30
2014 Demaryius Thomas 16 184 111 1619 11 21.2
2015 16 177 105 1304 6 17.0 -19.82
2013 Pierre Garcon 16 184 113 1346 5 17.5
2014 16 105 68 752 3 10.1 -42.29
2013 Andre Johnson 16 181 109 1407 5 17.5
2014 15 146 85 936 3 13.1 -25.15
2012 Calvin Johnson 16 204 122 1964 5 21.8
2013 14 156 84 1492 12 21.8 0.00
2012 Reggie Wayne 16 195 106 1355 5 16.9
2013 7 58 38 508 2 14.4 -14.80
2012 Brandon Marshall 16 192 118 1508 11 20.9
2013 16 163 100 1295 12 18.8 -2.10
Average Variance -17.72

 






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