NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported last week that 2019 Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas is expected to miss the start of the 2021 NFL Regular Season as he recovers from a June procedure on his ankle.
The injury is a major blow for the New Orleans Saints who have more questions than answers headed into their first season without Drew Brees in over a decade and a half.
But for fantasy football owners the question now becomes "Who can replace Thomas' production?" and "Is there a Saints wide receiver that is a reliable fantasy option during Thomas' absence?"
Looking Back at Who Filled Thomas' Production in 2020
The Saints that stepped up in Thomas' absence last season were wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (signed with the Buffalo Bills this offseason) and Running Back Alvin Kamara. The duo combined for nearly 400 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues during 2020.
Kamara placed second among running backs with 294.8 points (19.7 Points per Week) on the season. However, he led all running backs in receptions and receiving yards making him among the leagues best PPR players.
Sanders placed 45th amongst eligible wide-outs finishing with 103.8 Points (7.4 Points per Week) during his lone season in the Black and Gold.
Sanders, while it did not show in Fantasy production, did produce for New Orleans becoming the team's number one receiver throughout the season and meeting incentive bonuses in his contract.
Other Saints Offensive Fantasy Stats 2020:
- RB Latavius Murray (Saints Active Roster) - 113.2 Points (32nd Among RBs)
- TE Jared Cook (Signed With Chargers) - 90.4 Points (12th Among TEs)
- TE Adam Trautman (Saints Active Roster) - 23.1 Points (59th Among TEs)
- WR Tre'Quan Smith (Saints Active Roster) - 69.1 Points (71st Among WRs)
- WR Deonte Harris (Saints Active Roster) - 27.7 Points (125th Among WRs)
- WR Marquez Callaway (Saints Active Roster) - 21.3 Points (132nd Among WRs)
What Do We Know About the Saints 2021 Offense?
Here is what we know... Michael Thomas had an operation to repair ligaments in his ankle in June. The timetable for return is approximately four months, putting Thomas' potential return to the field around Week 6 of the 2021 NFL regular season.
We also know the Saints Wide Receiver room remains unproven and without a true veteran leader. Saints GM Mickey Loomis tried to patch some of the hole by signing Super Bowl Champion WR Chris Hogan, per reports. Although the addition of Hogan brings some experience to the locker room it does not offer Fantasy upside for any Saints receiver.
Combined the unknowns of the receiving corps with the impending battle for the reigns to the Drew Brees throne and the Saints offense may look like a recipe for disaster on paper.
However, with an MVP candidate in Alvin Kamara, one of the best offensive-lines in football, and a new face at quarterback the Saints may look like one of the most intriguing rosters in football and Fantasy.
All in all, Fantasy Owners can not expect Alvin Kamara to carry the Saints offense for yet another season but as I said, on The Who Dat Discussion Podcast last week, I think Kamara and Murray will have to shoulder the burden of not having Michael Thomas. You can listen to the full podcast episode below.
Who To Trust in the Black and Gold Headed Into Your Draft?
New Orleans' Wide Receivers are unproven, not just in the league itself but fantasy too. Tre'Quan Smith looks to be the safest player to pick up in free agency of the New Orleans wide-outs in Fantasy this season because of his experience and big play ability (18th among Fantasy WRs in 2018). However, the prospect of picking up second-year player Marquez Callaway (who received 1st team reps in camp this week) is intriguing after his stints of solid play as a rookie.
The Saints will be without Michael Thomas and now potentially Deonte Harris who was arrested for a DUI this offseason. However, Sean Payton did not sound too concerned about that group during his press conference ahead of training camp.
So if this is the group the Saints will take into the season and into your fantasy drafts there is a lot of skepticism.
And frankly, a RELIABLE week in and week out fantasy option does not exist on this roster, outside of a healthy Michael Thomas, at the moment.
***This Article was written referencing Standard Fantasy Football Scoring Scales***
Follow Saints News Network’s Writer, Brendan Boylan, on Twitter & Instagram at @btboylan.