New Orleans Saints ace tipped to be a 'top five dude' in his position 'by the end of the year'

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas

ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson believes that New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas has the ability to bounce back and be a top name in the NFL again. 

Not too long ago, New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas was arguably in the discussion to be not just the best receiver in the league, but the best offensive player period. He came flying out the blocks in his NFL career with four straight seasons of over 1,000 yards and 3 straight years of over 100 catches, but it’s the 2019 season that made him stand out, as he set an NFL record with 149 catches, led the league in receiving yards with 1,725 and won Offensive Player of the Year in the process.

The past two seasons though have been a major disappointment for him, although through no fault of his own. 2020 saw him suffer a couple of injuries to his ankle that restricted him to just seven games in the regular season, although he did come back to play a part in their postseason efforts, but could only bring in 5 catches for 73 yards as they were eliminated in the divisional round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He had ankle surgery ahead of the 2021 season that was meant to heal everything up however his recovery time didn’t match up with the campaign and he was forced to sit out the entirety of it, watching on from the sidelines as the Saints went 9-8 and missed the playoffs.

And it seems as if he’s suffered from an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality amongst some around the NFL as a result of his absence, with a recent article on ESPN not putting him in the top ten wide receivers for the 2022 season.

But Keyshawn Johnson was having none of it.

What’s he said?

Speaking on ESPN’s First Take as part of a discussion on whether or not Thomas could reach the top ten level again, Johnson found it rather weird that Thomas’ name wouldn’t be included just because of his injury issues, before going a step further and claiming that he wouldn’t be surprised to see him make it into the top five in the league: 

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“First of all, how did all these receivers pass up somebody based on what? Statistics? Are we saying this based on statistics. He’s on the outside looking in because he had zero catches and somebody else had 85 catches, is that the reason? Because if that’s the case, then we shouldn’t even be having this conversation. 

“As far as talent goes, he is certainly a top 10 talent at the receiver position. He will be a top five dude by the end of the year, both in statistics and talent. I don’t even know why I’m even having this conversation to be honest with you. It’s mind-boggling a guy misses time, and now all of a sudden he’s not a top player anymore.”

A bit of a risky statement 

Johnson does have a point to some extent, when it comes to pure talent, just looking at the numbers that Thomas was able to put up, he is certainly one of the more talented when it comes to his position and talent doesn’t just go away so easily. 

However, given how long Thomas was out for, it isn’t impossible to think that he isn’t able to truly recreate the form that he had back in 2019 for instance, this isn’t just a little niggle that made him miss a week, it made him miss pretty much a season and a half. Saints coach Dennis Allen has stated that Thomas ‘looks outstanding’, but as with most things, we won’t truly know until the season starts.

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