Fantasy 5: Saints rookie WR Michael Thomas is on the rise

Why New Orleans' second-round pick is worth watching in fantasy drafts. Plus, Arian Foster's role in Miami, and why Jeremy Langford is still overvalued.

| 11 months ago
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Fantasy 5: Saints rookie WR Michael Thomas is on the rise

That was it. The last weekend without NFL football until February. We have the Hall of Fame game this upcoming weekend, and then a full-slate of preseason games the following weekend.

The news is going to start to come hard and heavy, but we’ll continue to give you the five most important stories to know every day. Here’s the most important information from the past weekend:

1. Saints rookie WR Michael Thomas is on the rise

While it isn’t the 2014 class, this year’s draft has some intriguing talent at the wide receiver position. One rookie with the potential to make fantasy waves this year is Saints WR Michael Thomas. The New Orleans Advocate called Thomas “easily the best player in camp so far.” That’s a statement that shouldn’t be taken lightly on a team with Brandin Cooks, Mark Ingram, Drew Brees, and several other very talented players. Even if the quote is a bit of an exaggeration, Thomas is still standing out just as he did throughout the Saints’ offseason program.

While many pegged Thomas as the heir apparent to Marques Colston’s “big slot” role, his profile suggests he can do a lot more. Thomas has prototype No. 1 wide receiver size (6-foot-3, 212 pounds), and he displayed big-play ability at Ohio State with 705 yards coming on receptions traveling at least 20 yards in the air. Perhaps most importantly, he lined up mainly on the outside, with Braxton Miller manning the slot for the Buckeyes.

Thomas is currently going as a late-round flier, as the 59th wide receiver being selected in fantasy drafts. That’s 10 spots later than teammate Willie Snead. While Snead is coming off an impressive 2015 campaign, it’s fair to argue that Thomas offers more fantasy upside. That being said, if Thomas continues to play well throughout the preseason, their ADPs could very well flip-flop. For now, it’s wise to keep a close eye on Thomas in the Saints’ preseason games.

2. Arian Foster continues to gain fantasy momentum

The Dolphins activated newly signed RB Arian Foster from the active/PUP list on Sunday after the veteran reportedly “annihilated” his conditioning test. It’s great news that Foster is back on the field, but tis the season of fluff and hyperbole. Foster is returning for a torn Achilles, which is just one in a string of injuries that has plagued him over the last three seasons.

[Thinking of drafting Arian Foster or Jay Ajayi in your leagues this year? Run mock drafts and get our round-by-round recommendations based on your league settings and draft position with PFF’s Draft Master Tool.]

Since signing with Miami, Foster’s ADP has shot up three rounds. He’s now going as the 31st running back off the board, which is two spots ahead of teammate Jay Ajayi. Talk out of Dolphins camp continues to bode well for Foster’s fantasy prospects. Initially thought to be the receiving back, Foster now appears to be in the driver’s seat for the starting job. He’s shown in the past that he’s more than capable of handling a bell cow role, and he’s an extremely good fit in the zone-blocking scheme that head coach Adam Gase runs.

With all of that said, Foster has missed 25 games over the last three seasons, and he turns 30 at the end of August. Even if he does end up as the feature back, Foster comes with tons of risk. At this point, it’s trending in the direction of Foster being drafted in the back end of the RB2s. He’s a player who certainly has weekly RB1 upside, but for how long? The risk-averse fantasy players will want to avoid Foster.

3. Vikings camp update: WRs Laquon Treadwell and Stefon Diggs

The PFF Training Camp Tour stopped by Vikings camp over the weekend, and our John Kosko shared his observations on Laquon Treadwell, who took a majority of his reps with the second-team with Charles Johnson working with the ones. Our team of analysts expect Treadwell to emerge as the starter opposite Stefon Diggs, but Kosko noted that Diggs will likely be the No. 1 wideout “for at least the first half of the season.” He went on to say that Treadwell will eventually be the No. 1, but “it just might not happen this year.”

This nugget affirms the senses of the drafting public, who are currently selecting Diggs in the middle of the ninth round with Treadwell going a full round later. Both players are being picked among the WR4 options, which feels about right. While Kosko’s perspective doesn’t instill confidence in Treadwell this year for fantasy purposes, it isn’t wise to completely wipe Treadwell off of your draft board. He’s still a very polished receiver who is oozing with talent. Treadwell may not pay immediate fantasy dividends, but he offers a lot of upside at his current ADP.

4. Bears RB Jeremy Langford remains overvalued

We see it every year. The information paints a particular narrative about a player that fantasy drafters just don’t want to believe. Perhaps this year’s best example is Jeremy Langford. We’ve documented his many deficiencies here at PFF numerous times, yet our objections have gone largely ignored, as Langford is still being drafted as the 20th running back off the board.

However, it seems the Bears share our perspective. The Chicago Tribune reported that Chicago wants Langford to improve in “yards after contact and become a better receiver.” Langford was second-to-last in yards after contact per attempt last year, and led the position with eight dropped passes.

Rookie Jordan Howard is expected to compete with Langford, but the Tribune noted that third-year man Ka’Deem Carey is also in the mix. Carey posted prolific numbers at Arizona, but has yet to materialize as a pro. While he’s unlikely to surface on the fantasy radar, Carey’s presence in this battle is further reason to avoid Langford at his current ADP. 

5. Weekend injury roundup

While it’s great to have football back, the downside is that players are going to get hurt. The fantasy community had a brief scare over the weekend when it was reported on Twitter that Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr. left practice with a leg injury. Fortunately, the injury turned out to just be a few cuts after Beckham was cleated by CB Janoris Jenkins. … Rams WR Tavon Austin was carted off the field on Sunday. While initial speculation was an ankle injury, Austin was merely dehydrated and won’t miss any time. … The news doesn’t appear to be anywhere near as good for Chargers WR Stevie Johnson, who was carried off of Sunday’s practice with an apparent leg injury. Johnson made a diving catch and then twisted his knee when attempting to get up and run. He was unable to put weight on the leg following the non-contact injury. The results of the MRI are still pending, but this doesn’t sound good for Johnson. Dontrelle Inman is the next man up if the injury is serious.

| Director of Fantasy

Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.

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