Michael Thomas Undergoes Ankle Surgery: Saints Fantasy Football Outlook

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas underwent surgery to repair the ligaments in his ankle in June, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. This is the same ankle that caused Thomas to miss nine games last season and had fantasy football players ripping their hair out.

According to Rapoport, with the timing of the surgery and the recommended four months of recovery the surgery requires, Thomas could be sidelined for several weeks. Thomas’ injury already looks like it’ll be one of the most frustrating in 2021 fantasy football leagues.



Michael Thomas Injury: Saints 2021 Fantasy Football Outlook

With the Saints already preparing to start in a post-Drew Brees era, the road gets bumpier as Thomas expects to miss some time at the start of the season.

Without Thomas, the Saints must rely on receivers Tre’Quan Smith, Deonte Harris, and Marquez Callaway to step up, along with Alvin Kamara out of the backfield. Kamara should see a heavier workload, especially this year with a new quarterback in the mix, as he led the Saints last year in targets (107), receptions (83), and receiving yards (756).

Who could the Saints sign to replace Thomas for 2021?

The Saints must rely on the next three receivers on the depth chart: Smith, Harris, and Callaway. Between the three of them, there’s a lack of experience and production that you would want from your top receiver. Combined last season, the three accumulated 75 catches for 847 yards and 5 touchdowns.

It might’ve been less of an issue if they still had the Canton-bound Brees on the roster. However, they’ll instead field either versatile QB Taysom Hill or former No. 1 pick Jameis Winston, who hasn’t played a full regular-season game since 2019.

So that begs the question: Do the Saints wait it out and hope they’re in a good position when Thomas returns, or do they test the free agency market and get a veteran receiver?

If the Saints decide to go the free agency route, there are still a slew of veteran wide receivers available. Alshon Jeffery, Golden Tate, Kenny Stills, Larry Fitzgerald, Dez Bryant, and Marqise Lee are all currently without a team and more reliable than not. It’s safe to assume any of these receivers would be a dependable target for whoever is under center Week 1.

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Michael Thomas Injury: Fantasy Football Outlook

After an injury-plagued 2020 NFL season, Thomas looked poised to start the year off strong. Having surgery in June, however, will put his campaign on hold to start the season. Thomas could potentially rejoin the Saints after their Week 6 bye, which will still give him 12 games to compete in.

Last year was the first season of his career that Thomas didn’t eclipse 90 receptions and 1,000 yards. It was the also first time in his career he was held without a touchdown. Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook benefited the most with Thomas out, but the Saints let them both walk in free agency. After that, Smith had a career year, setting career-high marks in receptions (34) and yards (448). Smith can be a FLEX option as long as Thomas is out. Once Thomas returns to the lineup, keep an eye on Smith on your bench in case he loses targets.

A sleeper pick is tight end Adam Trautman. Playing behind Cook, the rookie did well in the opportunities he had, finishing the year with 15 catches for 171 yards and 1 touchdown. With great size (6’5″, 255 lbs), Trautman could become a reliable option in the red zone. He shouldn’t be on most radars, so you’ll be able to snag the second-year TE in later rounds.

Michael Thomas: 2021 Dynasty Fantasy Football Outlook

If you have Thomas on your dynasty fantasy football team, this isn’t an injury to be too worried about. As previously stated, this surgery is a four-month recovery that started in June when he underwent the surgery. Thomas will be out at least the first 6 weeks of the fantasy season.

If you have the opportunity to hold onto Thomas, he will be valuable in the second half of the season and into fantasy football playoffs. Thomas will return as the top option for the Saints, and he’ll look to come back strong. This was also the first sign of slowing down for Thomas, who has stayed healthy for most of his career so far.

If you do want to trade Thomas away, the best time to do so is after the season starts. As he gets closer to returning from injury, his value will go up due to the hype and his potential impact. You’ll be able to get a greater return closer to his return versus trying to move him before the season starts.

Michael Thomas Ankle Surgery: Injury Analysis

UPDATE: From The Game Day’s injury writer, licensed physical therapist Kyle Trimble:

Michael Thomas continues to deal with the effects of his Week 1 high ankle sprain from last year, finally getting surgery in June. While high ankle sprains can and do heal up without surgical intervention, it’s quite possible that he was dealing with continued pain or an inability to maximize his off-season training, resulting in the delayed surgery.

To review, a high-ankle sprain typically occurs when the ankle is placed into dorsiflexion and eversion, stressing and separating the syndesmosis band that connects the tibia and fibula. This articulates with the talus, the top bone of the foot.

When running and jumping, stress placed through the foot separates the tibia and fibula, causing instability. It has been reported that he required surgery for the torn deltoid ligament and other ligaments within the ankle. He likely required a tightrope procedure to stabilize the ankle syndesmosis and repair the deltoid ligament that ensures medial stability.

This recovery takes roughly 4 months, but it’s unknown when in June he had surgery. I expect him to return between Week 7 and 8, barring any complications. When he returns, he should be 100 percent healthy, though don’t expect him to replicate his output from 2019 as he works with new quarterbacks and get back into football shape.

Michael Thomas: 2021 Saints Quarterback Fantasy Outlook

With a QB battle ramping up on Bourbon Street, Thomas’ injury throws a wrench into the plans. As one of the top and most reliable wide receivers in the league, it’s a major blow losing out on throwing to Thomas to start the post-Brees era.

New Orleans could go with a more ground-heavy offense to start, which would make dual-threat Hill the easy candidate to start. Hill did also start for the Saints last year in Brees’ absence, going 3-1 over a four-game stretch. Winston is more of a pocket passer and has the arm strength to bomb the ball downfield. However, Winston hasn’t started a regular-season game since 2019. He did lead the league in passing yards that year, throwing for 5,109 yards, but he also led the league with 30 interceptions.

No matter who ends up winning the quarterback battle for the Saints, he will have a tough time starting the year without Thomas. In terms of fantasy, it would be a safe bet to avoid most Saints players not named Alvin Kamara.

Alvin Kamara 2021 Fantasy Football Outlook

Even though Thomas is a wide receiver, this only boosts Kamara’s draft stock more. Not only will the No. 1 receiver be out to start the season, but the Saints will also field a new quarterback, meaning Kamara will be relied upon even more.

Kamara’s value rises in every fantasy football format. The team is going to look to run more to start as they feel out Hill or Winston. And if either one runs into trouble through the air, they can rely on Kamara for dump-off passes.

Kamara is the most talented athlete on the roster, as he led the team in rushing and receiving in 2020, along with having 80+ catches every year he’s been in the league.

Even if the Saints do sign a receiver or two off free agency, Kamara will still be the focal point of the Saints’ offense. He was top 10 in scoring in standard PPR leagues in three of the four years he’s been in the league.

  • The Game Day fantasy football writer Nate Hamilton ranks Alvin Kamara among the top 10 picks in his 2021 fantasy football rankings. Click to see where to pick the Saints’ RB and how much to pay for him in an auction.

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