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Fantasy Alert: Saints' Michael Thomas 'Heading Towards' Starting Week 1 After Injury

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 9, 2022

Michael Thomas (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas is reportedly on track to play in Sunday's Week 1 game against the Atlanta Falcons after dealing with a hamstring injury.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported the update Friday on Good Morning Football:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

From <a href="https://twitter.com/gmfb?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@GMFB</a>: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Saints?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Saints</a> WR Michael Thomas is “progressing” toward being on the field Sunday, while we check in on <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Ravens?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Ravens</a> QB Lamar Jackson on deadline day. <a href="https://t.co/JmCFYSJyHc">pic.twitter.com/JmCFYSJyHc</a>

Thomas' expected return after missing the entire 2021 season with an ankle injury is a promising development for fantasy football managers who took him in the middle rounds of their drafts with the hope he can rediscover some of his prior dominance.

The 29-year-old former Ohio State standout was an absolute force across his first four seasons after the Saints selected him in the second round of the 2016 draft.

Here's a look at his year-by-year production during that span:

  • 2016: 92 catches for 1,137 yards and 9 TDs
  • 2017: 104 catches for 1,245 yards and 5 TDs
  • 2018: 125 catches for 1,405 yards and 9 TDs
  • 2019: 149 catches (NFL record) for 1,725 yards and 9 TDs

It doesn't get much better than that from a fantasy perspective. The combination of high-end production and week-to-week consistency made him a manager's dream No. 1 receiver.

He suffered an ankle injury in Week 1 of the 2020 season, however, and it lingered throughout the campaign as he tallied no touchdowns across seven appearances. He underwent surgery during the subsequent offseason before missing the entirety of 2021.

The hype about Thomas' return was dampened by the hamstring injury, but it sounds like he's made enough progress to give it a go on Sunday.

Now the question is whether the 2019 NFL Offensive Player of the Year will ever return to the level he showcased early in his career.

Not only is he three years removed from his last monster statistical output, but quarterback Drew Brees is no longer leading the Saints' offense as he did in Thomas' best seasons.

In addition, the star wideout now has ample competition for targets from Jameis Winston with Jarvis Landry, Chris Olave and Marquez Callaway all likely to have roles in the weekly game plan. Running back Alvin Kamara is also a key factor in the passing game.

So will Thomas ever rack up 185 targets again as he did in 2019? Probably not. But that doesn't mean he can't carry solid fantasy value.

Consider him a low-end No. 2 or high-end No. 3 fantasy receiver to open the season, but a healthy Thomas could find himself back in the No. 1 conversation by year's end.

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