New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas has separated himself from the pack as the best fantasy wide receiver in the league as well as the best wideout in the NFL. In 2019, he caught 149 of his 185 targets for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns. He is an unstoppable force and target machine. However, that is a bit of the issue. Fantasy owners have been looking for that second option in New Orleans, and even reaching for guys they hope can break out due to the attention Thomas draws, but it just hasn't happened.
Tre’Quan Smith was the man many hoped would step up. Unfortunately, in the last few seasons, he's been banged up and underperformed. The Saints' second-leading wideout last year was 35-year-old Ted Ginn Jr, who caught just 30 passes on 56 targets for 421 yards and two touchdowns. That isn't enough production from the other receivers. Now they’ve added 33-year-old Emmanuel Sanders, who is winding down his career and is coming off his first healthy season since 2016. Sanders helps but is not the answer.
The Saints sit with the 24 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft in an extremely deep and talented receiver class with a bit of a luxury pick. With that pick fantasy owners need to keep their fingers crossed that they grab another target for Drew Brees and that it's LSU standout, Justin Jefferson. Pairing him with Thomas would almost immediately give them one of the most formidable receiver duos in the league. Not only can he be the man that finally helps push New Orleans over the hump. He can be the man that puts your fantasy team over the hump next December.
Jefferson is 6-foot-1 and runs a 4.43 40-yard dash with the rare hands, concentration, and ball skills to rival Thomas. He's explosive, fast, and can work through traffic coming out of the slot. His catch radius is incredible, and even when fighting for balls or on poorly thrown passes; he can come down with it. Even as a blocker, he's willing to make his presence felt to help support Alvin Kamara and Saints' rushing attack.
SI’s Packers Maven Bill Huber broke down what fantasy owners can look forward too:
Jefferson went from zero catches as a freshman to 54 as a sophomore to 111 receptions for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. In his final three games, Jefferson was dominant. In the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, he caught seven passes for 115 yards and one touchdown. In the national semifinals, he had a day for the ages with 14 receptions for 227 yards and four touchdowns against Oklahoma. In the national championship, he caught nine balls for 106 yards against Clemson.
Jefferson did most of his work from the slot, where he lined up 81 percent of the time and caught 109 passes for 1,518 yards. He had seven drops, a rate of 5.8 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he caught 92 percent of catchable passes – fourth-best in the draft class.
His most significant flaws are breaking away from man coverage and less than superb route running. These are fixable issues and who better to learn from than the superstar receiver standing opposite him. It doesn't hurt that he's a Louisiana native either for the hometown fans. He, like many wideouts in this class, has everything it takes to develop into a star, which is scary when you consider the rest of this offense.
This would be a slam-dunk pick for a team desperate to win now after three straight devastating ends to their seasons. In my latest 2020 rookie wide receiver rankings, I now have Jefferson at No. 4 behind Tee Higgins and ahead of Henry Ruggs III. Every fantasy owner needs to be hoping this comes to fruition as this offense would be virtually unstoppable with the combination of Thomas, Jefferson, and Kamara, and oh yeah, the NFL's all-time leading passer getting them the ball.