The New Orleans Saints offense still generally lives and dies on the golden right arm of Drew Brees, but is Brees the most indispensable player on the Saints offense? If something were to happen to Brees either short-term or long-term, the Saints could turn to a former Pro Bowl quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater.
Behind Alvin Kamara is a former Pro Bowler in Latavius Murray. If something were to happen to Cam Jordan, the Saints could lean on rising first round pick Marcus Davenport.
But what about Michael Thomas?
If something were to happen to Thomas, the Saints de facto #1 wide receiver would be 34 year old Ted Ginn Jr. The #2 wide receiver in that scenario would likely be someone out of the group of Keith Kirkwood, Cameron Meredith, and Tre’Quan Smith. That wouldn’t be a pretty thing to watch.
In theory, it’s difficult to differentiate Thomas from Alvin Kamara in terms of impact on the offense. I’ve already listed Kamara as a dark-horse MVP candidate and I stand by that. But Thomas is everything for Drew Brees and Sean Payton in the passing attack. And the numbers he’s put up in in first three seasons -- averaging 107 catches for 1,262 yards and eight touchdowns -- speak for themselves.
Jared Cook was a nice offseason edition, but it’s not like this receiving corps is teeming with encouraging options beyond Thomas. Brees understandably targets Thomas at an extremely high rate, and the wide receiver certainly makes it worth the QB’s while. On 147 targets last year, Thomas logged 125 catches -- that’s a crazy-high catch rate of 85 percent. What would Brees and Co. do without him? Not be Super Bowl contenders, for one thing.
If you’re curious, two other names made the list from the NFC South: Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers came in 6th and Julio Jones came in 5th.
I could see the case for C-Mac of the Panthers, but Julio? What do the Falcons have behind 30 year old Julio Jones? Only 29 year old Mohamed Sanu and 24 year old former first round pick Calvin Ridley. Aside from not catching touchdowns and helicoptering fumbles away, is Julio really that more valuable to the Falcons offense than Thomas is to the Saints? I don’t think so.