Will Michael Thomas’ injury make him fantasy irrelevant in 2022?

After missing nearly two full seasons, how concerned should fantasy managers be over Michael Thomas' injury status as drafts begin to take place?

Fantasy football draft season is quickly approaching, which means injuries and/or setbacks that take place now could impact some of these players’ potential for the 2022 NFL season. Given the latest injury news surrounding injury Michael Thomas, how should fantasy football managers approach drafts this year regarding the Saints’ top receiver?

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Is Michael Thomas’ injury status a warning sign for fantasy?

Thomas is one of the more fascinating players of the 2022 season. Not because of anything he did last season; actually, it’s quite the opposite. It’s what he didn’t do last season. Thomas missed all of the 2021 NFL season while recovering from an ankle injury that occurred during 2020, which required multiple surgeries.

Unfortunately, that injury is still bothering Thomas. According to ESPN insider Field Yates, the New Orleans Saints placed Thomas on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list ahead of the start of training camp. While being placed on the PUP list will prevent Thomas from participating in practices, the Saints can’t remove Thomas at any point to return to active status.

However, if he remains on the PUP list when the season begins, Thomas would be required to miss four games under the NFL rules.

Fantasy managers are facing the grim reality that in order to draft Thomas, they might be doing so blind and simply hope that he can get back onto the field. And once he does, managers must hope he looks like the player we saw over a season and a half ago. But if they are right, they could also be in line for a significant value.

Once an elite option, Thomas is the ultimate wild card in 2022

When we last saw Thomas on the field, he limped, literally and figuratively, to a WR41 finish in points per game. Sure, that doesn’t sound very good, and it isn’t to a certain extent. But it’s not quite as bad once you dig a bit deeper.

For one, Thomas drew a 27.9% target share in the games he played. Across seven games, Thomas saw 55 targets, hauling in 40 receptions for 438 yards. His points per game seem so alarmingly low because he didn’t score a single touchdown.

It’s a stark contrast to the year prior. In 2019, Thomas blew everyone out of the water. He set the NFL record with 149 receptions on a staggering 185 targets, totaling 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns. It was his third year in a row recording over 145 targets. His 2020 season was the first time in his career he had seen less than 121 targets or had fewer than 92 receptions, 1,100 yards, and five touchdowns.

Known for his route running, if Thomas’ ankle hinders his ability to cut and move at the stem, he will struggle to separate. Throw in that the last time Thomas saw a target came from Drew Brees, and there is room to be skeptical of Thomas’ impact in 2022.

Does Thomas’ injury make him irrelevant for fantasy in 2022?

In short, no. Not as long as Thomas gets on the field. Thomas needs to cross a series of thresholds and bridges for a fantasy manager to have confidence when they hit the draft button.

He needs to get back on the field. Thomas needs reps. And unfortunately, if those don’t happen during training camp, that’s a significant setback. He’s also no spring chicken, as he will turn 30 just after the NFL season concludes.

But once he’s back on the field, healthy, and trusts his ankle, Thomas could be a significant value if his ADP falls in line. We’ve seen a complete change in Jameis Winston‘s approach since he arrived in New Orleans to receive his “masterclass,” as he called it, in the quarterback position. Yolo Winston, who became a “30 TD/30 INT” club member, was rather turnover adverse last year.

His 7.3 yards per attempt were the lowest since 2016, as he played a more conservative brand of football. That’s not a bad thing for Thomas. Still, he’s not pushing the ball downfield like Ja’Marr Chase or Justin Jefferson. If healthy, there are zero reasons why Thomas cannot be the target leader for the Saints this season.

Thomas faces competition for targets in 2022

It’s worth pointing out that Thomas never really faced competition during his sensational run. In fact, between 2017 and 2020, the only player on the Saints to have 100 targets outside of him is Alvin Kamara. The last Saints wide receiver to record 100 or more targets was Brandin Cooks in 2016. That was three trades ago for him.

New Orleans added two significant upgrades to the roster heading into the season: veteran Jarvis Landry and the 11th overall draft pick Chris Olave. Both are technicians when it comes to running routes. Combined with a healthy Thomas, it’s one of the better wide receiver rooms in the NFL. Right now, they have a leg, or I should say … ankle, up on Thomas. However, assuming health, which is a bit risky right now, Thomas should be the No. 1 option on this New Orleans team.

As of now, over on Sleeper, Thomas has an ADP of 91.6 as the WR29. He is directly behind Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney and ahead of Treylon Burks and Rashod Bateman. WR29 for someone who has played in seven games since 2019 is a bit too rich for my blood.

Ideally, Thomas would be a WR4 on one of my rosters. There is so much upside if he is healthy based on his ADP. You could be drafting a high-end WR2 in Round 8 of your draft. But you could also be drafting someone who might not see the field again. Given the wide range of outcomes, fantasy managers need to understand the risks associated with Thomas’ injury when drafting him in 2022.

Tommy Garrett is a Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read all of Tommy’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.

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