New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas broke a single-season record in 2019 that no one thought would ever be broken: The single-season reception record set by Marvin Harrison a decade and a half before.
Thomas topped it with 149 receptions and has since inserted himself into the conversation as the face of the Saints franchise, which quarterback Drew Brees has held since 2006.
But the Saints have a complete offense and if I could, I’d list 3 studs and a breakout player for the Saints since this team lacks a true sleeper and stumbler, but for this article, I’ll list 1 for each category as done in previous articles.
But you get it. The Saints still have one of the most explosive offenses and it’s not changing in 2020.
1- Stud: Michael Thomas, WR
- 149 receptions
- 1,725 yards
- 11.6 yards per reception
- 9 touchdowns
Thomas set an NFL record last season with 149 receptions and he owns a lengthy list of NFL records just 4 seasons into his career. The guy is the new Jerry Rice, plain and simple. There’s no discussion.
He’s the most productive receiver of all-time and of any receiver heading into his 5th season, and what’s remarkable about Thomas is that his production keeps increasing. In his rookie season back in 2016, he had 92 receptions.
In 2017, that number hit 104, and in 2018, he led the league with 125 receptions. And in 2019, he shattered his personal best and the NFL record while also leading the league in reception yards.
He’s also one of the most durable players in football, having missed just 1 game in his entire NFL career. When you put everything together, you have arguably the greatest player in football playing for the Saints.
Like Christian McCaffrey on the division rival Carolina Panthers, Thomas is also in the discussion for the top pick in every fantasy draft and he might be the top pick in Points Per Reception (PPR) leagues. The guy just produces and it doesn’t matter who the opposing defensive back is.
If you bet on player productivity, just bet the over. Sure, injuries and the occasional poor season happens but it doesn’t appear to be likely in Thomas’ case. Oddsmakers and ESPN will rank his projections generously lower given the even greater talent in New Orleans.
Players like Emmanuel Sanders have joined the offense while utilities like Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Jared Cook, Josh Hill, and Taysom Hill provide quarterback Drew Brees plenty of options to go to other than Thomas.
But none of these receivers match Thomas in ability and consistency. There are never any guarantees here, but just bet the over, because per the law of probability, Thomas will shatter another record.
Here are Thomas’ 2020 projected statistics, per ESPN:
- 114 receptions
- 1,330 yards
- 11.7 yards per reception
- 9 touchdowns
2- Sleeper: Drew Brees, QB
- 281 completions
- 378 attempts
- 2,979 yards
- 27 touchdowns
- 4 interceptions
- 9 carries
- -4 yards
- 1 touchdown
Don’t sleep on Drew Brees, even as pundits say the signs are there that the Saints are looking to replace the 41-year-old quarterback after signing Jameis Winston, who threw for over 5,000 yards in 2019. While Winston’s yards and touchdown passes look like good numbers, he also threw 30 picks.
At least in 2020, Winston isn’t a threat to replace Drew Brees and even if Brees goes down again with an injury as in 2019, he will still put up good numbers. While his injury and age might turn off some productivity bettors, if you play fantasy football, take Drew Brees.
Brees is still a top-10 quarterback and still a highly productive player in the league and if he didn’t miss 5 games in 2019, he would’ve been on pace to throw 39 touchdown passes and just 6 picks. His passing yards would’ve been 4,333.
Again, these numbers are hypothetical and are based on averages, but it shows you that a healthy Brees would’ve posted typical Drew Brees numbers.
I wouldn’t expect anything less from Brees if he starts all 16 games in 2020. Some may mistake his pedestrian 2019 numbers as signs of slowing down. Don’t make that mistake. Perhaps he’s not the quarterback he was 10 seasons ago. Most 41-year-olds aren’t.
But until his production dips and he falls into a game manager role, don’t mistake Brees for slowing down.
Here are his projected 2020 statistics:
- 363 completions
- 516 attempts
- 39 touchdowns
- 9 interceptions
- 20 carries
- 11 yards
- 1 touchdown
3- Stumbler: Taysom Hill, QB
- 19 receptions
- 234 yards
- 12.3 yards per reception
- 6 touchdowns
- 27 carries
- 156 yards
- 1 touchdown
The position isn’t a typo. Hill is a quarterback who can play receiver, running back, and kick returner, among other positions. He’s probably more identifiable as an offensive weapon.
And he’s the most overrated player in the NFL.
I get it. Taysom Hill is a football player and it’s amazing to see what a third-string quarterback can do as the ultimate role player and utility. Hey, every team wants their very own Taysom Hill because players like this are so rare and versatile. Nothing but respect for Hill here.
But he’s overrated.
He’s not a productive player and while he’s fantastic at the goal line and to use during trick plays, he’s not worth betting on or even drafting for your fantasy football team.
It seems like a lot of people out there think Hill’s going to break out and have a career year that rivals that of Julian Edelman, or something.
The guy can play, but his overall production hinges on situations and if the situation isn’t there, Hill isn’t touching the ball.
He’s a significant role player, he’s fun to watch, it’s great to see a place for players like him in the game. But don’t make the mistake in thinking he will do much for the Saints other than make himself available in specific packages.
ESPN agrees, so if online sportsbooks are setting Hill’s numbers similar to ESPN, then maybe you take a flyer and bet the over on him. But a lot of oddsmakers will set his numbers higher than they should be and if they don’t mirror what you see below, don’t take an unnecessary risk.
Projected 2020 statistics:
- 15 receptions
- 163 yards
- 10.9 yards per reception
- 1 touchdown
- 37 carries
- 216 yards
- 2 touchdowns
4- Rookie: Adam Trautman, TE
2019 statistics (college):
- 70 receptions
- 916 yards
- 13.0 yards per reception
- 14 touchdowns
The Saints traded up to get Adam Trautman and while he’ll find himself buried on the depth chart in camp, his situation is better than it looks. In front of him are the aging Jared Cook and the underwhelming Josh Hill.
And while the Saints’ tight end room looks like a logjam, hardly a soul down there is worth placing above Trautman. Look for him to take advantage of the situation quickly and given his college production, he may make the leap faster than many project.
While it might be wise to stay away from placing a productivity bet on Trautman, he is a viable draft pick in fantasy football if you play in keeper leagues or even a league with over 12 teams. Trautman will make your gamble worth it.
If there’s a downside here it’s that he played his college ball at Dayton, a Division I FCS School. This might make the transition from the college game to the NFL a little more challenging, but it’s more than manageable as plenty of players have done so.
With a solid offense in New Orleans, the transition will help Trautman and if he supersedes either Cook or Hill on the roster, he’ll find himself open often as defenses focus on Thomas, Sanders, and Kamara.
Trautman has a huge advantage in this situation and when a team trades up to draft you, it means they plan on using and developing you early. He definitely deserves a look here.
Here are Trautman’s projected 2020 statistics:
- 4 receptions
- 41 yards
- 11.6 yards per reception
- 0 touchdowns
Don’t let these projections fool you. All it takes are a few underwhelming performances from Cook and Hill, neither of whom ever solidified themselves as legit starters in the NFL with Hill always playing 2nd fiddle and Cook never finding a home in the league.
Again, so many excellent players and so few slots here. There’s really no true sleeper or even a true stumbler on this offense. But they are players that some bettors will either sleep on or make an irrational wager on. Don’t make that mistake.
As for the studs, Alvin Kamara can easily be inserted for Thomas. It just shows the potency of the Saints’ offense. They’re always hot and will continue to be so until Drew Brees hangs it up. But what’s not to say Jameis Winston picks up where Brees eventually leaves off?
A year or 2 behind Brees might allow Winston to fix the turnover issue he struggled with in Tampa. When a team has this much depth, they’re definitely a player productivity and fantasy football hotbed. And it’s smart to consider just about every player on this roster.
What do you think of my picks? Is there anybody I left out? Let me know what you think in the comments.