I expect there will be varying opinions on Michael Thomas entering the 2021 season. He set a single-season record for catches in 2019, but he wasn’t much of a factor last year (in part because of injuries). And now he’ll be playing in an offense that’s radically different – assuming Drew Brees retires.

On Thomas’ behalf, he hasn’t been dependent on Brees the last two years. When Teddy Bridgewater filled in for five games in 2019, Thomas’ production didn’t drop at all. And when Thomas was playing his best ball last year, it was with Taysom Hill filling in at quarterback – Thomas was far less effective when Brees was starting.

Thomas isn’t a speedy receiver. He’s not a guy who can be counted on to get behind defenses for longer touchdowns. In that regard, he’s more like Marques Colston or Keyshawn Johnson – a large body who’s working the middle of the field. (And to clarify, it’s my belief that Thomas is better than Colston and Keyshawn – I’m talking about his style of play.)

Below see the list of the 25 receivers who’s caught at least 20 touchdowns in the last four years. Thomas shows up last on this list, with an average touchdown distance of 11 yards. Part of this can be attributed to Brees having a popgun arm, but Thomas also is simply not a burner who’s running by anybody. Even post-Brees, Thomas won’t hit on many touchdowns from outside the red zone.

Speed isn’t everything, of course. Keenan Allen and Jarvis Landry are also slower wide receivers, and they’ve also had good careers.

Robby Anderson2135.0
Tyreek Hill4134.2
Will Fuller2230.5
Amari Cooper2729.3
Nelson Agholor2327.9
JuJu Smith-Schuster2624.8
Antonio Brown2924.3
Kenny Golladay2123.9
Stefon Diggs3122.2
T.Y. Hilton2021.8
Brandin Cooks2021.6
Tyler Lockett3021.2
Cooper Kupp2421.2
Calvin Ridley2620.4
DeAndre Hopkins3719.8
Mike Evans3419.6
Julio Jones2018.9
Marvin Jones3216.7
Chris Godwin2416.6
Adam Thielen3315.8
Davante Adams4614.0
Keenan Allen2613.7
Jarvis Landry2212.0
Alshon Jeffery2011.4
Michael Thomas2311.1

—Ian Allan