Michael Thomas is the Best Value Top Wide Reciever

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas has seen a valuation dip recently. However, the 27-year old remains in his prime with elite production up to this point of his career. Is the devaluation warranted, then? Or, is Thomas the best wide receiver value in fantasy?

I recently conducted a Twitter poll asking the community if Thomas was a top-10 wide receiver in dynasty. While the majority answered ‘yes,’ still over 45% of the respondents did not have Thomas among the top-10 at his position, citing some combination of either age, quarterback concerns, or both as concerns. Let’s take a look to see just how legitimate these concerns might be when evaluating Thomas.

Michael Thomas’ Current Value

Let’s look at the current ‘consensus’ value for Michael Thomas. In startups, Thomas has a round-three average draft position as the tenth receiver off the board. Personally he is the WR10 in my personal dynasty rankings, and Dynasty League Football has Thomas ranked as the WR9. While narrowly within the top-10, Thomas is largely valued as a low-end WR1 nonetheless. 

Thomas’ positional ADP has tumbled from his high-end WR1 status of recent years. After sitting as a top-4 wide receiver since 2018, the drop to WR10 is quite the fall. But what has caused this dip in value? 

Michael Thomas' Positional ADP Since 2016.
Chart courtesy of Dynasty League Football

An Injury Plagued 2020 Campaign

Recency bias plays a large part in fantasy player’s minds, and this past season we didn’t see much of Thomas. After missing just one game in his previous four NFL seasons, Thomas missed seven games in 2020. When he did play, the production was not what fantasy players had grown accustomed to in previous years. Thomas saw his per-game averages in receptions, yards, and touchdowns all hit his career low.

However, taking a closer look at the games in which he did play does provide some insight.  After a rough Week 1 to kick off the season, Thomas then went down in Week 2 with an injury. This ankle injury would keep Thomas out until Week 10. Upon his return, starting quarterback Drew Brees promptly suffered an injury himself, and backup Jameis Winston ended up finishing out the game

The Taysom Hill Experiment

Then, Weeks 11-14 happened. Taysom Hill was inserted as the starter at quarterback, and in those games Thomas averaged 9.3 targets, 7.5 receptions, 85.8 yards per game. The somewhat small sample size would extrapolate out to full-season totals of 148 targets, 120 catches, 1372 yards, 9.27 yards per target; a stat line that would be comparable to what Thomas has already produced in his career thus far. Another note: while Thomas failed to score last season, he did see six targets from within the ten yard line in his seven games, including a career-high four in Week 10. All of those targets came with Taysom Hill at quarterback.

Teddy Roosevelt Said it Best

“The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future”

– Theodore Roosevelt

And if you look into the past, Michael Thomas was historically great to begin his career. Since 1970, there have been 19 wide receivers who caught at least 300 passes in their first four seasons. Thomas paces that group with… 470! Jarvis Landry is a distant second with 400 receptions, and Anquan Boldin rounds out the top-3 with 342, a whopping 128 receptions behind Thomas.

From the fantasy side, Thomas totaled over 1200 fantasy points in his first four seasons. That total is more than Randy Moss (1190), Jerry Rice (1087), and every other wide receiver over the past 50 years.

Is Michael Thomas Really the Best WR1 Value?

While Thomas seems to be surrounded by question marks, the answers are fairly cut and dry.

  1. Injuries – Thomas has shown his overall ability to stay healthy, having missed one game from 2016-2019. The 2020 injury suffered to his ankle was not one considered career-altering, or chronic. After surgery this offseason to repair the torn ligaments, there is no reason to believe his health will be a concern going forward.
  2. Age – dynasty players tend to be age-ists, knocking player’s values mainly due to their age. Thomas is not one of those players that should be docked, however. He is less than seven months older than Stefon Diggs (the WR7 in startups), three months younger than WR1 Davante Adams, and nine months younger than WR8 DeAndre Hopkins. 
  3. Quarterback Uncertainty – it is true that the future of the quarterback position in New Orleans is hazy. Drew Brees is presumed to retire this offseason, and the heir apparent isn’t obvious. If Taysom Hill is the guy, Thomas has already shown the ability to produce with him. If Jameis Winston gets a shot, we have at least seen his ability to sustain multiple fantasy-relevant WR’s, as evidenced by both Chris Godwin (WR2) and Mike Evans (WR8) in 2019.

Thomas will most likely come much cheaper in trades than his fellow WR1’s, and that is evidenced when looking through recent trades involving him in he Trade Finder Tool at Dynasty League Football. A sampling of recent Michael Thomas trades:

Recent Michael Thomas Trade
Recent Michael Thomas Trade
Recent Michael Thomas Trade
Recent Michael Thomas Trade
Recent Michael Thomas Trade

In each of the aforementioned trades, I would take the Michael Thomas side and enjoy the next few years of elite production. Now is the time to capitalize on the rare discount of a highly productive player.

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