New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas burst onto the fantasy football scene as a rookie in 2016, but over at numberFire.com, they name Thomas as a primed candidate for fantasy football regression in 2017.
They created a complicated statistic called “Net Expected Points,” whey they calculate approximate fantasy points to be scored per drive, taking into account starting yard line, down, distance, etc. Using this NEP statistic, they attempted to calculate players who over-performed their “expected” performance. The idea being that players who over-perform in one year are due for regression in the following year. Michael Thomas is one of those players:
Michael Thomas was outstanding in his rookie season, scoring the seventh-most fantasy points per game. However, his closest NEP comps were guys like Julian Edelman, Demaryius Thomas, and Amari Cooper, who finished as the 16th-, 17th-, and 18th-highest scoring receivers, respectively.
The departure of Brandin Cooks means that some more volume could be coming Thomas' way in 2017, which would mitigate a loss in efficiency. However, it should be noted that the most targets by a Saints wideout in the last five seasons was Marques Colston with 130 in 2012. That is just nine more targets than Thomas had last season.
It’s interesting to point out that while numberFire listed six WRs due for possible regression, they actually named eight total, but kept Terrelle Pryor and Pierre Garcon changed teams this offseason, so they decided to keep them off the list. In that same grain, Michael Thomas - while still a member of the New Orleans Saints - will be in an offense that runs slightly different in the coming season than it did in last year when you take into account the additions of Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara, along with the removal of Brandin Cooks.
So do you think Thomas regresses in 2017? While Cooks won’t be around to take away targets, opposing defenses will now focus primarily on Thomas instead of viewing him as the secondary option behind Brandin Cooks. It really could go either way at this point, but in any event, Thomas should have anoter big year this season.