Michael Thomas was regarded as the top receiver out of Ohio State. During the 2016 NFL draft, he was the 47th overall pick by the New Orleans Saints during the second round. The 6’3” wide receiver hails from Los Angeles, California, and is one fans will need to familiarize themselves with this season.
His uncle, NFL great Keyshawn Johnson, played receiver for 11 seasons in the NFL. With that pedigree added to Thomas’ name, expectations remain high for the rookie.
The hope is that he will be a projected starter, alongside quarterback Drew Brees, during the opening preseason home game on August 11 against the Oakland Raiders.
When asked how he felt regarding his uncle’s NFL career, Thomas simply said, “I want to be better than my uncle. I just want to make everyone proud.” Thomas’ humility is incredibly transparent when giving interviews and he has the skills to match.
During the second day of Organized Team Activities at the practice facility in Metairie, Brees called a play during a third-down simulation in which Thomas needed to run an 18-yard route. What was obvious for the completion was how his connection with Brees on the field was quickly adjusted. Thomas, while in shotgun formation, faked the defender into believing he was going to run on the outside near the line of scrimmage, but instead, found an open slot and ran freely in a clear path.
We know the quarterback-wide receiver relationship is imperative for wins—being able to read last-minute play calls and making quick decisions, but most importantly, having communication and comradeship. Brees spoke on how Thomas was able to handle the play well, with as little as a nod to go off his instincts.
“I gave him a route that we have literally never repped before together … I don’t think we’d ever even talked about it. But I was just in the moment, and he’s my guy at that position, so I gave him the signal. He goes and makes the play and ran the route just like I imagined.”
Thomas’ former Buckeye coach, Urban Meyer, has even stated that he thinks Thomas is one of the most competitive players he’s ever had. Thomas showed up, showed out and will be ready this season with confidence.
During his college football career, Thomas was redshirted in 2013 with problematic areas due to his grades and inefficiency to learn offensive plays. However, he changed that with due diligence in 2014, the year the Buckeyes won the National Championship after defeating Oregon 42-20.
He finished his 2015 season leading in receptions with 56 catches for 781 yards and nine touchdowns. Not bad for a guy who was once a backup and ended up as an on-top starter, helping his team finish out as winners.
During his draft class, Thomas was considered a top-tier wide receiver. After he proved himself during the Combine, including running a 4.55-second 40-yard dash, a three-drill cone at 6.8 seconds and, a vertical jump at 35 inches, he was able to “Throw It in the Bag” as quickly as rappers Fabolous and The Dream’s hit single.
Shortly after his move to New Orleans, Thomas admitted that he hadn’t had time to enjoy the city because of his priorities regarding his advanced career as an NFL player. That focus is probably what drives Thomas to want to be a good team player to his veteran franchise quarterback.
“He's given back so much to this organization and this program. With a pro like that who's up there in his career, I just want to give back to him and add value and help him get to that Super Bowl again,” Thomas said about Brees’ legacy.
My take is that Thomas will be one of the better wide receivers alongside Brees. The Saints have been taking major hits regarding the D-line for quite a while and ultimately, defense doesn’t really win championships. It’s the chemistry between the vets and rookies on offense that will help set the precedent for a great outcome.