In The Blitz, RotoViz writers react to the latest news and help you place it within the context of our 2020 research and recommendations.
While this past Sunday had several league-shifting injuries, perhaps none were bigger than the injury to Saints superstar Michael Thomas. When he went down in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s contest against Tampa Bay, most were hopeful that it wouldn’t be major. But it looks like it’s worse than expected:
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) may miss several weeks, according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network. The 27-year-old reportedly suffered a high-ankle sprain during Week 1, and the injury is worse than initially anticipated. It is a huge blow for fantasy managers, as Thomas is one of the top offensive threats in football.
It’s a crushing blow for those who rostered Thomas, the consensus WR1 and RotoViz’s No. 3 overall player in redraft. Thomas, coming off a record-breaking season, is certainly not replaceable, but several other less-heralded Saints’ players will look to put up improved numbers in his absence.
Lock Jared Cook in as a TE1
Even before Thomas went down, Jared Cook was putting together a nice game: he caught five of seven targets for 80 yards. This represented a 23% target share and an 11% team opportunity percentage, which was ahead of Thomas in both categories. This stat line just expanded on his scorching end to the 2019 season.
Cook was already a strong starting option and is now one of the favorites to lead the Saints’ passing attack (behind Alvin Kamara) over the next couple of weeks. It doesn’t hurt that he gets Las Vegas and Green Bay either, neither of whom are strong against the TE.
Can you guess who was was just behind Thomas and Kamara in snap count last week? That’s right, it was Tre’Quan Smith, the third-year receiver out of UCF. While he didn’t have much to show for it, there’s a lot of reason to be intrigued by Smith while Thomas sits.
Throughout his career, Smith has been wildly efficient: 26.4 FPOE in 2018 and 30.1 in 2019. He’s clearly explosive, but the volume has been lacking. When he does get this volume, he hasn’t disappointed. It’s only happened three times, but when Smith gets more than four targets in a game, he goes crazy.
This number is not out of the range of possibilities for next week, as Thomas has been an absolute target monster. While the small sample size doesn’t necessarily make a breakout likely, he has been Drew Brees‘ most efficient receiver since coming into the league. You could do much worse on a dart throw.
Outlook on Sanders
Veteran Emmanuel Sanders came over as a free agent this offseason and was solid in his debut, putting up 10.5 points while catching a touchdown. However, Sanders was only on the field for 49% of plays and had negative FPOE despite catching a touchdown. He’s a few years off from his best seasons and wide receivers haven’t done well in the past changing teams. But Sanders is now put into a great spot with a Hall of Fame quarterback and an explosive offense with Super Bowl aspirations. A relatively soft schedule over the next three weeks helps, and Sanders is a fine flex or WR3 play, with a higher floor but a much lower ceiling than Smith.