Michael Thomas broke out in a big way during his rookie campaign. He led all rookies with 92 receptions and 1,137 receiving yards; additionally, he posted nine touchdowns. Many would say that Thomas’ emergence led to the Saints trading away receiver Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots. Although it’s unlikely that the Saints traded Cooks because of Thomas’ emergence, it is likely that they felt Thomas’ play made Cooks expendable. People have begun to ask “Will Michael Thomas be able to handle the responsibilities of a true number one receiver?”
The answer, quite simply, is yes. Given that Thomas is now the Saints’ top offensive weapon, he will see a lot more matchups with the opposing teams’ top corner. However, that shouldn’t stop him from being more productive and more efficient in 2017. Over the course of his rookie season, he was faced with top corners a number of times. He and quarterback Drew Brees didn’t shy away from Richard Sherman, one of the top corners in the league, in their Week 8 matchup.
John DeShazier of the Saints’ website reported that Thomas is up to 220 pounds from the 210 pounds he played at last season. It isn’t uncommon for players to bulk up over the offseason, but the added weight could pay huge dividends for Thomas. Last year, he was incredibly effective on slants and hitches. His success on those routes made him a valuable asset on third downs as he was consistently able to move the chains. His physicality and route running allowed him to win on those routes, and an extra ten pounds of muscle will solidify his physical presence.
At 6’3″ and 220 pounds, Michael Thomas has the size to be a dominant force on the field. Thomas is by no means fast, but he’s agile and has the ability to make defenders miss, something that’s rare for receivers his size. According to sportingcharts.com, Thomas averaged 5.2 yards after the catch. That number put him ahead of Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandin Cooks, two of the fastest receivers in the league.
Thomas isn't the most agile or quick guy. However, his strength and ability to make guys miss pay off huge dividends. pic.twitter.com/75u8tokds8
— Chris Hilsinger-Pate (@_chrispate) June 9, 2017
Some receivers are one-trick ponies. There are those who use their blazing speed to run go routes. There are also those who use their size and strength to run slants and catch jump balls in the red zone. Thomas is a receiver who can do it all. It’s already known that he is incredibly effective when running slants and hitches, but he also has the ability to be a threat downfield. A combination of good hand usage, technique, jumping ability, and awareness allow him to a viable option on deeper routes.
All of the signs point to Michael Thomas being better in his sophomore season. Nick Underhill of The New Orleans Advocate detailed an impressive end zone grab Thomas had in one of the Saints’ OTA sessions. The chemistry between Brees and Thomas seems to have improved. This connection should make Thomas more of a threat as back shoulder passes and jump balls will become easier for Brees and Thomas to connect on.
Barring injury, Michael Thomas will likely be chosen to go to the Pro Bowl. It would be no surprise if he posts 1,300 yards, 100 receptions, and 15 touchdowns or more. The rest of the NFL might not know it yet, but Michael Thomas is about to become a household name.