Sources: #Saints star WR Michael Thomas is expected to miss the start of the 2021 season after undergoing surgery to repair the ligaments in his ankle in June. Based on the timing of the surgery – and recommended 4 months of recovery – Thomas could be on the sideline for weeks.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 23, 2021
A few thoughts come to mind, but the primary question is when did Michael Thomas have the surgery? If it was early June, he likely will miss all of September. A procedure in mid-June puts him out into at least Week 7, since the New Orleans Saints have a Week 6 bye, and it makes little sense to risk rushing him back.
And all of that is based on the recommendation of four months, which is just that — a recommendation. Given how much Thomas has struggled to date with the injury, being hopeful about the short end of this prognosis isn’t wise.
The Saints are already looking at free-agent receivers, a list that includes veterans: Larry Fitzgerald, Golden Tate, Dez Bryant, Josh Gordon (suspended), Dede Westbrook and Isaiah Ford. Yikes. Among those players, Tate makes the most sense. Fitzgerald sort of does, too, given his skill set, albeit diminished by Father Time. 7/25 update: Westbrook has signed with Minnesota.
If the Saints are interested in going the trading route, Arizona Cardinals’ Christian Kirk could fit the bill. He’ll be a free agent in 2022, and his absence would give Arizona a chance to play some of their younger receivers. Chicago’s Anthony Miller might fit that description, too. One option, discussed yesterday but for a different team, is New England’s N’Keal Harry. He would be the best fit of this group from a physical perspective. 7/25 update: Miller was traded to Houston.
Another route is waiting to see how the roster cuts affect the veteran market while exploring what New Orleans has in some of its mostly untested receivers, such as Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris and Juwan Johnson. A less likely scenario would involve moving running back Ty Montgomery back to his natural position of wide receiver.
Fantasy football takeaway
The injury drastically devalues him in fantasy football, and it leaves a gaping hole in the offensive weaponry for the Saints. It also crushes any optimism regarding quarterback Jameis Winston, provided he indeed beats out Taysom Hill.
What it does, however, is open the door for tight end Adam Trautman to have a humongous role in the target share for a month or more. It also thrusts Tre’Quan Smith into the WR1 role. Trautman is largely unproven after catching only 15 passes as a rookie in 2020, while Smith has been given several chances to showcase his skills in between being a reserve player and fighting injuries.
Smith should get much more attention in fantasy drafts, and he’ll likely get overvalued by some owners. Trautman will be more popular in competitive circles but should still fly under the radar in casual leagues.
There will be more reliance on the running game in the first half of the year, and this move could make Latavius Murray all that much more value as Alvin Kamara cannot do it alone.
As for Thomas himself, err on the side of caution. Expect him to land on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list and possibly get converted to the reserve version, which will cost him the first six games. He will have no offseason to improve chemistry with Winston and then has to get his conditioning back to where it needs to be during the year. It seems like the best-case scenario is he will be useful for half of the fantasy season. Treat him as a late-round gamble in PPR.