New Orleans Saints rookie wide receiver Michael Thomas is looking to make an impact in his first season in the league, and head coach Sean Payton gave some rare fantasy football advice on the young receiver Tuesday.
“I’ve got high expectations for him,” Payton said, via The Times-Picayune. “Listen, I think he’s going to contribute early. And I don’t follow fantasy football, but, shoot, I’d try to have him. I think he’s going to do well.”
While Payton surely doesn’t care about fantasy football, his statement Tuesday shows how impressed he’s been with the second round draft pick thus far. Thomas has not been listed as a starter on the Saints depth chart, but a 6-foot-3, 212-pound receiver with great hands is unlikely to sit on the sideline for long.
Despite a disappointing season in 2015, New Orleans’ offense continued to roll, finishing the season with the best passing attack in the league. Saints franchise quarterback Drew Brees raved about his new rookie wide receiver during organized team activities in June, and it wouldn’t come as a shock if he ended up being his top target by the end of the season.
“He came from a great program at Ohio State where those guys were required to come with intensity and a competitive nature to them,” Brees said, via the Times-Picayune. “So you can tell that he’s used to being in that environment. He works at it.”
Brees and Thomas have been working on their chemistry since the team selected him in the 2016 draft, but many question why he fell to the second round. Thomas didn’t put up the huge numbers other receiver prospects did in their final season at college, but that shouldn’t rest solely on the 23-year-old’s shoulders, as Ohio State’s passing attack was non-existent last season.
The Saints have two young talented receivers in Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead, but neither of them are listed over 6-feet tall. While that won’t heavily diminish their fantasy outputs this season, Thomas’ big frame and ability to catch contested passes should immediately make him a red zone target.
With Drew Brees behind center and no signs of him slowing down, New Orleans’ offense could be set for another explosive season. Thomas’ fantasy value is surely on the rise after an impressive preseason, and if he is available in mid-to-late rounds of fantasy drafts he could end up being one of the biggest steals in 2016.