Maybe it’s because he’s on the high-octane, pass-first offense of the New Orleans Saints, but whatever it is, Pierre Thomas is flying under the radar. Last season, he had a very successful (but quiet) campaign, ranking 23rd among running backs, but he’s currently being picked as the 32nd running back on average. Surprising? No, the players being picked ahead of him are bigger names, but Thomas’ stock has never been higher.
Thomas is coming off of his first 1,000 yards from scrimmage season since 2009, and with the departure of Darren Sproles, he should be able to return to that milestone. While Sproles may have been the preeminent receiving back in The Big Easy, Thomas wasn’t very far behind. He took on a career-high 77 receptions last season, and he should be able to retain that rate once again, hopefully boosting his average by a yard or two. That’s a reasonable assumption, as he’s proven capable of averaging over eight yards per reception. As he should be absorbing part of Sproles’ workload alongside Brandin Cooks, I’d expect Drew Brees to increase Thomas’ average reception and punch in four scores as well.
However, Thomas is a running back first and foremost. Last season he saw a career-high rush attempts — once again — the absence of Sproles should add more benefit for Thomas. Rather than splitting the ball four ways this season, he’ll only be splitting time with Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. Of course, a surprise player may come into the picture, but there’s no immediate threat to take more carries away from Thomas. He’ll probably see his name called in run plays about 150 times this season once again.
As I have stated, last year he saw career highs in receptions and rushes, but he also saw a career-high nine starts. That really says something that head coach Sean Payton is seeing a great player in Thomas. He’s trusting him as the front line of attack more than any other RB on the team, and now with one less head in the backfield, he should be getting even more starting snaps this year — albeit, maybe only one more.
Overall, Thomas should be in store for roughly 1,200 yards from scrimmage and seven scores. That’s a respectable figure that would place him around 160 fantasy points, a career-high mark. Even though he’s drafted outside of the Top 30 RBs, he certainly could be a Top 20 back this season and one of the best value picks of your draft if you land him in his projected 8-9th round.