Probably the biggest steal of the 2016 draft occurred in the second round at the 47th overall pick, when the New Orleans Saints selected wide receiver Michael Thomas from Ohio State. Thomas has rewritten the team's record book over just three seasons, and established himself as one of the best players in the NFL. Thomas has caught 321 passes for 3,787 yards and 23 touchdowns in his three regular seasons (47 games), and 31 catches for 423 yards and 3 scores in four postseason games. As good as he was during his first two years in the league, 2018 was the best yet for the young wideout who celebrated his 26th birthday on Sunday.
Thomas started out the 2018 season in grand fashion, during the opener against Tampa Bay. Despite losing a fumble, Thomas torched the Buccaneers secondary for a franchise record 16 catches, totaling 180 yards and a touchdown. He went on to set NFL records for receiving production over the first quarter of the season, and caught at least 10 passes in each of the first three games. After the first eight games, Thomas had 70 receptions for 880 yards and five touchdowns. The crown jewel of his fantastic season may have been in a week nine showdown against the previously undefeated Los Angeles Rams, when he made Rams Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters into his own personal play toy. Thomas caught 12 passes on the afternoon for a franchise record 211 yards, including a game-clinching 72-yd. touchdown late in the fourth quarter. He won the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his spectacular performance.
Defenses stacked their coverages in efforts to contain Thomas over the second half of the year. His numbers were slightly down over the last eight contests, catching 55 passes for 525 yards and four scores, including just one touchdown in the final six games. That score came during a key December win against the Pittsburgh Steelers though, when Thomas came through big with an 11-catch, 109 yard performance. The All-Pro wideout shined brightly again on the big stage during a divisional playoff round match up against the Philadelphia Eagles. Thomas ran roughshod through the Eagles secondary, bringing in 12 receptions for a Saints postseason record 171 receiving yards and a key score in the victory.
Michael Thomas led the NFL in receptions in 2018, besting his own team record with 125 catches. His 1,405 receiving yards were also a franchise record, and he reached the end zone 9 times. He had at least 5 receptions in twelve games, including 10 or more receptions seven times. Thomas had over 70 yards receiving eleven times, breaking the 100-yd. barrier in five games. Pro Football Focus (PFF) rated him as the second most productive receiver in 2018 with a 91.3 grade, behind only DeAndre Hopkins of the Texans. Thomas is one of the most physical receivers in the NFL, and is next to unstoppable through the short and intermediate zones with incredibly sharp route running skills, underrated athletic ability, and incredible hands to snatch the ball in traffic. He caught a mind-boggling 85.6% of the 146 times he was targeted, and is a centerpiece for this New Orleans offense for the foreseeable future.