It’s pretty much common knowledge that Antonio Brown is considered the best wide receiver in football. After all, the guy has been putting up otherworldly numbers for years now, and he is showing no signs of slowing down. But can someone else step up to the challenge and dethrone Brown as the best in the game? The task will not be easy, but Michael Thomas has a lot going for him, and it could translate into taking that seemingly impossible leap.
First, let’s take a look at what Thomas has been able to accomplish in his two years in the league. In his rookie season, Thomas came out of nowhere to put up 92 catches for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns. Once the expectation level had already been set, he still was not deterred, evident by his sophomore year numbers, when he hauled in 104 receptions for 1,245 and five scores.
Thomas’ 196 catches to this poin, set a record for the most receptions by any player in his first two seasons in the league. Looking at his numbers from 2017, you can already see how he has managed to enter the top tier of the most productive receivers in the game. His 104 receptions were third most in the entire league, behind only Jarvis Landry and Larry Fitzgerald, but he outproduced them both with his opportunities. Moreover, Landry and Fitz each had 160 and 161 targets, respectively, compared to just 149 for Thomas, so he was still more efficient with his opportunities.
Last season, Thomas’ 1,245 yards were the sixth most in the NFL, and his 22 receptions of 20-plus yards were the fourth most in the league. So, Thomas has displayed the ability to be the centerpiece of the team’s passing game, getting the job done in a multitude of ways, both on short and deep passes. Additionally, he has a way of breaking tackles and accumulating yards after the catch, ranking seventh among all receivers in that category with 423 YAC.
The best part about all of this? Thomas is still developing, and despite having a great second season, he still has a lot of room to grow. In terms of touchdowns, he certainly should be able to improve on his relatively low five touchdowns from a season ago.
The word out of Saints camp has been extremely positive when it comes to Thomas, who is apparently making incredible catches a regular occurance. Whether or not he is able to catapult to the league’s leading receiver remains to be seen. The competition is insane, as he would have to leapfrog some really good players, including Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., and DeAndre Hopkins, all of which have their own aspirations to claim the throne.
But Thomas has a lot working in his favor. He has a great quarterback passing him the ball, as Drew Brees has completed at least 70 percent of his throws over the years, reaching a personal career high 72 percent last season. Brees is aware of the immense potential Thomas has, and he will continue to target him at a very high clip.
The Saints offense has the potential to be as explosive as any other team in the league, and if they reach their goals, it would certainly be in large part to Thomas’ contributions. Saying that he will succeed in becoming the best receiver in the NFL as soon as 2018 could be a stretch, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibilities.