Rotoprofessor Pop Quiz: Is Pierre Thomas A Fantasy Breakout or Bust?

Aug 26, 2010

Written by Eric Stashin of


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Many people think that 2010 will finally be the year that Pierre Thomas fully breaks out and explodes onto the scene.  My question for those people is…  Why?


Don’t get me wrong, Thomas is a solid running back and could emerge as a Top 10-15 RB, but that’s about his upper limit in my mind.  However, he’s currently the 16th running back being drafted (with an ADP of 29.00 according to Mock Draft Central).


Basically, he’s being drafted about where I think his best-case scenario is.  I know, he’s likely to finally be the #1 running back in New Orleans, but there are a few reasons that I’m skeptical heading into the season.


First of all, the presence of Reggie Bush.  While Thomas may get the bulk of the carries, Bush has proven to be a dynamic third down/change of pace back.  He’s going to be in the game as a receiving option and a playmaker, but don’t discount his ability to run the ball as well.


Granted, the team is not likely to hand the ball off to him time and time again, in order to keep him healthy.  Still, this past weekend he proved just how dangerous he could be on the ground rushing seven times for 49 yards and a touchdown.


Throw in a few touches for Ladell Betts or DeShawn Wynn (or another player not yet on the roster), and the playing time could be a question.


That’s not to mention the amount of times the team is going to put the ball in the air.  This was one of my concerns when discussing Marques Colston (click here to view).  Drew Brees is a QB that spreads the ball around the field and is a superstar in his own right.


Last season he attempted 514 passes, tenth in the league.  Would it surprise anyone to see that number increase some in 2011?


Granted, Thomas is a threat in the passing game, with 39 receptions for 302 yards last season, but the more they throw the ball, the less valuable he will be overall.


Yet another concern is Thomas’ durability.  He’s never actually played in all 16 games of a season.  Over his first three seasons he has appeared in 41 games (out of 48).


There have already been injury concerns this preseason, missing time in camp with a wrist issue.  While he appears to be over that problem, you almost have to feel like “what’s next”.  He’s never missed significant time, but still.  Until he stays healthy and plays a full 16 game slate, you have to be concerned.


All of these worries translate into his overall numbers.  Last season he set a career high in carries with just 147.  Yes, he averaged 5.4 yards/carry (793 yards), but is that really enough?  Last year was the year he was supposed to fully emerge, with Deuce McAllister no longer in New Orleans.  Instead, it was Mike Bell seeing more carries (172).


I haven’t even mentioned the threat of the Saints bringing in a short yardage back who easily could “vulture” touchdowns.


He clearly has shown the talent (averaging 5.1 yards/carry for his career), but there are huge question marks hovering over him.  I’m not about to say that he is not going to emerge, but I would temper those expectations.  The Saints like to spread the ball around and keep their players fresh, which does not always translate to huge fantasy success.


To me, he’s being drafted slightly early, on average.  As my RB2 early in the third round, I’d prefer a little bit of a more sure thing.  If he slides to the fourth, then I’d certainly be more comfortable drafting him.


What are your thoughts on Thomas?  Will he fully breakout this
season?  How good do you think he could be?


Personally I like Pierre Thomas and have him ranked at #13 among RBs (click to see my 2010 RB rankings), but I understand Eric’s position.


Make sure to check out Rotoprofessor’s 2010 rankings:

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