NFL

Michael Thomas Is Quietly Having a Historic Season and Nobody Seems to Care

When the Saints took Michael Thomas with the 47th overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, they knew that they’d be getting a good receiver. What they didn’t know that they’d be getting a player who would turn into perhaps the best receiver in the league — but that is what Thomas is turning into in his fourth season in the league.

Thomas is having a potentially record-breaking season following an offseason in which he signed a monster contract. Perhaps what is most impressive about the stats Thomas is putting up is the fact that he’s doing it while missing a future Hall of Fame quarterback for several games.

Saints receiver Michael Thomas walks off the field.
Michael Thomas | Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Michael Thomas signs a massive contract in the offseason

Entering this season, Thomas was coming off of two straight seasons in which he had more than 100 catches, which was good enough for Thomas to realize the value he brings to the team. That led him to hold out this offseason seeking a contract extension.

The Saints eventually capitulated, and in July they signed the receiver to a five-year extension worth $96.25 million, with $61 million guaranteed. Thomas can opt-out of the deal after the 2021 season, and given that he’ll still only be 28 that season and could still be putting up huge numbers he may get another big payday before turning 30.

Michael Thomas is on a record-setting pace this season

Thomas had 94 receptions through 10 games, a new league record, and added another 10 in Week 12 to give him 104 catches through his first 11 games. With five games to go, he is just 39 catches short of the all-time single-season record of 143 set by the Colts’ Marvin Harrison in 2002.

As he is averaging nearly 10 catches per game, he could pass Harrison’s mark with a game or two remaining in the campaign to add on to his total. Thomas’ stats are so ridiculous that he has more receptions than all of the wide receivers combined on the Ravens, as well as the Eagles’ wide receiver corps.

And he’s doing it with getting a lot of attention from opponents’ top defenders because there isn’t a strong No. 2 receiver on the Saints. That is helping Thomas live up to his Twitter handle, @Cantguardmike, because it is beginning to seem like you can’t guard him.

He is on pace to reach the third-highest receiving yards total in a season in NFL history, behind the marks set by Calvin Johnson (1,964 yards) and Julio Jones (1,871 yards) earlier this decade.

This season includes five games without the help of Drew Brees

Throughout his first three seasons in the league, Michael Thomas was used to having future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees throwing him the ball. While that was the plan again this year, a hand injury caused Brees to miss Weeks 3-7, with backup QB Teddy Bridgewater stepping into the starting role during that time.

That didn’t slow Thomas down, though. In the five games Bridgewater started, Thomas still had some of his best games of the season. He only had five catches in Week 3, but quickly picked things up in Week 4 when he nearly doubled that output to nine catches. Thomas then had the second-best game of his career the following week, when he caught 11 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns.

All told, Thomas’ line during Bridgewater’s five starts was 42 catches for 551 yards, and three touchdowns — numbers that just about any receiver would be happy with over a five-game span with a starting quarterback, let alone a backup.